Nov 10 (Reuters) – Twitter Inc’s new owner Elon Musk raised the possibility of the social media platform going bankrupt on Thursday, capping a chaotic day that included a warning from a U.S. privacy watchdog and the exit of the company’s trust and security chief.
The billionaire in his first mass call with employees said he could not rule out bankruptcy, Bloomberg News reported, two weeks after buying it for $44 billion — a deal that credit experts say has left Twitter̵[ads1]7;s finances in a precarious position.
Earlier in the day, in his first company-wide email, Musk warned that Twitter would not be able to “survive the coming economic downturn” if it fails to grow subscription revenue to offset declining advertising revenue, three people familiar with the matter said the message. Reuters.
Yoel Roth, who has overseen Twitter’s response to combating hate speech, misinformation and spam on the service, resigned on Thursday, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
In his Twitter profile on Thursday, Roth described himself as “Former Head of Trust & Safety” at the company.
Roth did not respond to requests for comment. Bloomberg and technology website Platformer first reported the exit.
Earlier Thursday, Twitter’s Chief Information Security Officer Lea Kissner tweeted that she had quit.
Chief Privacy Officer Damien Kieran and Chief Compliance Officer Marianne Fogarty also resigned, according to an internal message posted to Twitter’s Slack messaging system on Thursday by a lawyer on the privacy team and seen by Reuters.
Robin Wheeler, the company’s top ad sales executive, told employees in a memo that she was staying at the company, a person who had seen the message said, contradicting earlier media reports that she too would be leaving.
“I’m still here,” Wheeler tweeted late Thursday.
The US Trade Commission said it viewed Twitter with “deep concern” after the three privacy and compliance officers left. These layoffs could potentially put Twitter at risk of violating regulatory orders.
Musk attorney Alex Spiro told some employees in an email late Thursday that Twitter will remain in compliance.
“We spoke with the FTC today about our continued commitments and have a constructive ongoing dialogue,” Spiro wrote.
He stated that only Twitter, not individual employees, could be held liable against the orders.
“I understand there have been employees at Twitter who are not even working on the FTC case commenting that they could (go) to jail if we were not in compliance — that’s just not how this works,” he wrote.
In his first meeting with many employees at Twitter on Thursday afternoon, Musk warned that the company could lose billions of dollars next year, Informationen reported.
Musk added in the email to workers that telecommuting would no longer be allowed and that they would be expected to be in the office for at least 40 hours per week.
Twitter, Musk and Spiro did not respond to requests for comment on a potential bankruptcy, the FTC warning or the departures.
Musk moved recklessly to clean house after taking over on Oct. 27 and has said the company was losing more than $4 million a day, largely because advertisers began fleeing when he took over.
Twitter has $13 billion in debt after the deal and faces interest payments totaling nearly $1.2 billion over the next 12 months. The payments exceed Twitter’s most recently disclosed cash flow, which stood at $1.1 billion at the end of June.
Musk has started charging $8 a month for the Twitter Blue service which will include a blue check verification.
“We are following the latest developments on Twitter with deep concern,” Douglas Farrar, the FTC’s director of public affairs, told Reuters.
“No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must comply with our consent decrees. Our revised consent order gives us new tools to ensure compliance, and we are prepared to use them,” Farrar said.
In May, Twitter agreed to pay $150 million to settle allegations by the FTC that it misused private information, such as phone numbers, to target ads to users after telling them the information was collected only for security purposes.
Twitter’s privacy lawyer said Thursday in the internal memo that Spiro had said Musk was willing to take a “tremendous amount of risk” with the company. “Elon puts rockets into space, he’s not afraid of the FTC,” the attorney quoted Spiro as saying.
Twitter’s acquisition has sparked concerns that Musk, who has often waded into political debates, could face pressure from countries trying to control online speech.
That prompted US President Joe Biden to say on Wednesday that Musk’s “collaboration and/or technical relationship with other countries is worthy of consideration”.
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Musk told advertisers on Wednesday, speaking at Twitter’s Spaces function, that he aimed to turn the platform into a force for truth and stop fake accounts.
His assurances may not be enough.
Chipotle Mexican Grill ( CMG.N ) said on Thursday it had pulled its paid and owned content on Twitter “while we gain a better understanding of the direction of the platform under the new leadership.”
It joined other brands including General Motors ( GM.N ) that have halted advertising on Twitter since Musk took over, worried he will loosen rules on content moderation.
Reporting by Katie Paul in Palo Alto, California and Paresh Dave in Oakland, California; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Dustin in Palo Alto, Diane Bartz in Washington, Yuvraj Malik in Bengaluru and Fanny Potkin and Hyunjoo Jin; Written by Sayantani Ghosh; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Bill Berkrot, Deepa Babington and Sam Holmes
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