Death is in the air on Twitter.
On the platform Thursday night, where #RIPTwitter was top trending worldwide, users wrote what they feared might be their last posts, anxiously bidding farewell and listing the other (more stable) social media platforms where they can still be found.
They reacted to the terrible news coming from Twitter. Many remaining employees at the social media company on Thursday appeared to reject owner Elon Musk’s ultimatum to work “extremely hardcore,” throwing the communications platform into complete disarray and raising serious questions about how much longer it will survive.
A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. Sign up for the daily summary of the evolving media landscape here.
Twitter’s death will have far-reaching consequences, given how integrated the platform is in global communication. The platform has often been compared to a digital town square. World leaders use Twitter to communicate, journalists use Twitter to gather news, dissidents in oppressive countries use Twitter to organize, celebrities and big brands use Twitter to make important announcements, and the public often uses Twitter to monitor everything in real time.
If the platform were to die out, or become unusable due to instability issues, no single space would immediately replace it, and communication could be broken across multiple social media sites, leading to a seismic disruption and slowdown in information flow.
Inside the company’s Slack, there was actually a mass resignation after Musk’s 5pm deadline for employees to come to a decision was passed. Hundreds of employees appear to have quit, accepting Musk’s offer to quit in exchange for a three-month severance.
Employees flooded the “#social-watercooler” channel with the salute emoji, indicating they had chosen not to sign Musk’s pledge. A similar series of events unfolded in the Slack channel earlier this month when Musk eliminated about 50% of the company’s then 7,500 employees.
A former Twitter executive, who recently left the company, described the situation as a “mass exodus”. Asked about the situation, the former executive said: “Elon is finding he can’t bully top senior talent. They have many options and will not put up with his antics.”
“They will struggle just to keep the lights on,” the former executive added.
That assessment was universally shared by the other half-dozen current and former employees Thursday. It was already bad enough after Musk carried out mass layoffs at the company earlier this month. So bad that Twitter asked some of the people it had let go to return just days later. The situation has only gotten more serious since then.
In fact, Twitter management was in panic mode hours before the deadline, people familiar with the matter said, explaining that senior executives “scrambled” to convince talent to stay with the company.
Musk himself seemed to finally realize the grim state of affairs, sending an email to all employees relaxing his previously uncompromising anti-remote work stance. “When it comes to telecommuting, all that’s required for approval is that your manager takes responsibility for making sure you’re making an excellent contribution,” Musk said in the email.
It didn’t seem to do much good.
Two employees who had decided to reject Musk’s ultimatum on Thursday were quite clear about why they did so. “I don’t want to stick to building a product that is poisoned from the inside and the outside,” said one, later adding that he felt comfortable making a decision “in line with what I stand for.”
One recently laid-off employee who remains in touch with former colleagues said: “People don’t want to sacrifice their mental health and family life to make the richest man in the world richer.”
And Twitter seemed to understand the mess on its hands Thursday night, sending an email to employees notifying them that it has once again closed all of its offices and suspended access to employee badges, presumably to protect its systems and data.
Twitter’s already decimated communications department did not respond to requests for comment. But Musk nodded to the situation in a tweet.
“How to make a small fortune on social media?” asked Musk. “Start with a big one.”