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A look back at Elon Musk’s chaotic first month at Twitter






CNN

On Sunday, it is officially one month since the world’s richest man took over the helm of Twitter.

At the time, Elon Musk initiated mass layoffs and gave remaining employees a cryptic ultimatum, reinstated the accounts of controversial figures including former President Donald Trump, and launched — to bet — a plan to charge for Twitter’s iconic blue tick.

After spending months embroiled in an unsuccessful legal battle to get out of the initial proposal to buy Twitter, Musk made his first splashy entrance to the company’s offices on October 26, with a sink. (In a video of the incident which was shared on Twitter, he wrote: “Walking into Twitter HQ – let it sink in!)

Since then, the billionaire has seemingly left no stone unturned during his whirlwind first month as “Chief Twit.” Here’s a look at the range of ways Musk (who is still co-CEO of his other companies Tesla and SpaceX) has already made his mark on one of the world’s most influential social media platforms.

Almost immediately after Musk completed his drama-plagued $44 billion deal to buy Twitter, he fired former CEO Parag Agrawal and other executives. He made himself the CEO and sole director of the platform, according to a securities filing.

However, the dramatic management shake-up was only the first taste of the major staffing overhaul to come. Musk began widespread layoffs throughout the company, reducing the total number of employees by approximately 50% within a couple of days.

On the eve of November 3rd and into November 4th, many now former Twitter employees began posting on the platform that they had been banned from their company email accounts as the cutbacks began to play out in a very dramatic, public way.

The layoffs affected departments including ethical artificial intelligence, marketing and communications, search, public policy and more. As workers said goodbye to their colleagues online (many sharing blue hearts and greeting emojis to signal they’d lost their jobs on Twitter), Musk remained largely silent, at least on the job cuts.

In another dramatic move by the new boss, Musk publicly fired a software engineer who had survived the first round of cuts but then questioned Musk on Twitter.

In an internal email late at night following the mass layoffs, Musk asked Twitter’s remaining employees to commit to “extremely hard” work or leave the company with severance pay.

“To build a cutting-edge Twitter 2.0 and succeed in an increasingly competitive world, we must be extremely hardcore,” Musk wrote in the memo sent out on November 16. “This will mean working long hours at high intensity. Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.”

In the memo, Musk goes on to outline how Twitter will be “much more engineer-driven” and then gives employees an ultimatum. “If you are sure you want to be a part of the new Twitter, please click yes on the link below,” which directs staff to what appears to be an online form.

Musk said any employee who hasn’t done so by 5 p.m. ET the following day, Thursday, will receive a three-month termination notice.

In the shadow of the mass exodus of workers, an exodus of advertisers was also underway.

Since Musk’s takeover, a handful of brands — ranging from General Mills to North Face to Volkswagen Group — have confirmed a pause in advertising on the social network as civil society groups raised new concerns about the company’s direction under Musk.

About a week after taking over the company, Musk said it had seen a “massive drop in revenue.”

“Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue due to activist groups pushing advertisers, although nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists,” he said in a Nov. 4 tweet. “Extremely messed up! They are trying to destroy free speech in America.”

Another aspect of Twitter that Musk quickly changed is one of the platform’s most familiar features to users: the verified blue checks that had long been used to confirm the authenticity of government officials, journalists and other public figures.

“Twitter’s current master and peasant system of who has or doesn’t have a blue badge is bullsh*t,” Musk tweeted on Nov. 1. “Power to the people! Blue for $8/month.”

On November 5, Twitter released an updated version of its iOS app that allowed users to pay a monthly subscription fee to get a blue tick on their profiles. The update, as outlined on Apple’s App Store at the time, stated that users would now have to pay $7.99 per month for the company’s Twitter Blue subscription to receive a tick on the platform, “just like the celebrities, companies and politicians you already follow.”

Within days of the subscription service’s rollout, Twitter was flooded with a wave of celebrity and corporate impersonators who quickly gamed the new system to pose as brands and prominent figures.

Chaos ensued. In one viral example, a fake account, featuring a newly purchased blue check mark, posing as pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly tweeted that a critical diabetes drug would now be free.

In the wake of the chaos, Musk eventually announced that it would delay the rollout of the subscription service until the end of the month.

“Punting relaunch of Blue Verified until November 29th to make sure it’s rock solid,” Musk tweeted on November 15th.

On November 24, Musk gave a slightly different target date for the relaunch, December 2, and offered more details about the future service, including a variety of tick colors to indicate the type of verified account.

On November 19, Musk reinstated the Twitter account of former President Donald Trump, nearly two years after it was permanently banned following the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The move came shortly after Twitter restored the accounts of several other controversial, previously banned or suspended users, including conservative Canadian podcaster Jordan Peterson, right-wing satire website Babylon Bee, comedian Kathy Griffin and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Ahead of the reinstatement of Trump’s Twitter account, Musk posted a poll asking the platform’s users whether Trump should be reinstated – in which a narrow majority (51.8%) voted in favor.

“The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated,” Musk tweeted. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei.” (Latin for “the voice of the people is the voice of God”.).

Trump has previously said he would remain on his own platform, Truth Social, rather than rejoin Twitter, and has yet to tweet since his account returned online.

But a change in his approach could have major political implications as Trump has said he will seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

After conducting another Twitter investigation, Musk said on November 24 that he will begin restoring most previously banned accounts on Twitter starting next week. This would mark his most far-reaching move yet to reverse the social media platform’s policy of permanently suspending users who have repeatedly broken its rules.

The Thanksgiving Day announcement came after most respondents voted in favor of his poll on whether to offer “general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.”

Once again, Musk tweeted that “the people have spoken.”

His recent decisions to reinstate previously banned accounts, based on the results of his polls on the platform, are particularly at odds with how Musk previously said he would handle such elections.

Just a day after his takeover of Twitter, Musk said the social media company “will form a content moderation council with widely differing views.”

“No major content decisions or account reinstatements will occur until that council convenes,” Musk added

It is not immediately clear whether that council was ever created, convened or involved in the decision-making process behind bringing back Trump and previously banned accounts.





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