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Twitter’s Unpredictable Path Under Elon Musk

Hints of the impending doom that was inevitable with Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter began to show early on before the billionaire even completed the takeover. From the constant back and forth on his Twitter acquisition stance, it became apparent that Musk’s indecisive nature foreshadowed a dark future for Twitter.

However, the actual chaos ensued just hours after Musk became the largest stakeholder in the bird app. From his plan to grant a “blue tick” verification symbol to anyone paying $8 a month to lay off 3,700 people from Twitter (almost half of its employees), Elon Musk seems to be determinedly speed-running the app’s demise.

In this article, we will take a look at all the current controversies surrounding Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter. 

Immediately after completing his purchase, Elon Musk fired Twitter’s chief executive and top managers including CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, and legal affairs and policy chief Vijaya Gadde. Since then, more executives chose to resign or were let go and this was only the beginning of half of Twitter employees being laid off without a requisite notice.

The company dismissed people across multiple departments including human rights, machine learning ethics, transparency and accountability, advertising, marketing, communications, engineering, and curation.

Now, however, certain employees have been asked to return as they were laid off “by mistake”. Clearly, the company realized that a lot of the people laid off possessed the talents needed to keep the platform running smoothly and to work on features envisioned by Musk.

According to tweets from a former employee, numerous people already working on features such as attaching long-form texts to tweets and a new version of TweetDeck were fired in what can be seen as a classic Musk move. By setting tight deadlines on the feature rollouts, he made it very difficult for the remaining employees to get the work done on time, hence necessitating the return of previously fired employees. 

The laid-off employees took their justified anger to Blind, an anonymous community app for the workplace, where they shared their opinions on Twitter’s future, flooding the app with bad reviews. One poster who described themself as an engineering manager said on Wednesday:

“Brutalist decision-maker at the helm. Emergency-driven work is exciting for those who like thrills. Pay is no longer tied to the stock market fluctuations.”

The anonymous poster, who gave Twitter a two-star rating, added: “The absolute and swift destruction of a compassionate, human-first corporate culture is leaving Tweeps feeling like we’ve lost our family.”

While some resorted to typing out their resentment, others demanded justice through a different medium. Last week, several former Twitter employees filed a class action lawsuit against the company for not providing adequate notice before dismissing them from their jobs. Worker protection laws such as the Federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act as well as the California WARN Act require 60 days of advance notice before a mass layoff.

Moreover, a report by The Times stated that according to an internal benefits summary, Twitter workers are typically paid at least two months’ salary and the cash value of the equity they were scheduled to receive within three months of a layoff. 

The chaos at Twitter continued to ensue as Musk tweeted that Twitter was losing more than $4 million a day, mainly because advertisers started pulling back once he took over. Advertising provided 89% of the $5 billion in revenue that Twitter had in 2021 and with Musk’s plan to have banned and suspended people rejoin Twitter, the advertising profits came to a sudden halt.

For conflict-avoidant corporations such as General Motors, Oreo makes Mondelez International, Pfizer Inc and Ford to see Twitter being led by a man who believes in easing the censorship on the platform is not a good look. Fearful to see their ads appearing on a platform filled with controversial people making hate speech and misinformation, these advertisers decided to distance themselves from Twitter.

Furthermore, when advertisers realized that the people they entrusted with their billions of dollars such as the top executives were suddenly gone, they had to take a moment to pause because as explained by WSJ’s Suzanne Vranica, “This business is wildly dependent on people. It is a relationship business.” 

Additionally, there seems to be a variety of views regarding Elon Musk’s plan to expand Twitter Blue by making it available to users who pay $7.99 a month. The perks include getting fewer ads, blue tick verification, priority in replies, mentions, and searches, and the ability to post longer videos and audio.

The company got pushback from celebrities and others who expressed their reluctance in paying for something that has been free for so long. Along with this, talks of security risks have been brought up by experts who believe that the blue check logo is going to shift from being a marker of an account that the company has verified to one that simply shows up when a user is willing to pay.

They say the lack of information concerning this new feature is concerning. The attempted rollout of this feature was also a mess. Several people received notifications on their iOS devices that the company was handing out the blue checkmark to whoever was ready to pay $7.99 a month. But, later, Esther Crawford, a product lead at Twitter, clarified that these were sent as part of a test.

Over the weekend, Twitter reportedly postponed the plan to introduce the new verification system until after the midterms elections in the U.S. Needless to say, under Musk’s ownership, Twitter has embarked on a thorny path that seems to keep getting rougher. 

The new Blue isn’t live yet — the sprint to our launch continues but some folks may see us making updates because we are testing and pushing changes in real-time. The Twitter team is legendary. 🫡 New Blue… coming soon! https://t.co/ewTSTjx3t7

— Esther Crawford ✨ (@esthercrawford) November 5, 2022

Overall, Elon Musk is facing criticism on all fronts and is believed by many to be leading Twitter to its downfall. Mark Ruffalo directly engaged Musk following an accusation by the U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that the platform had “bricked” her profile after she criticized Musk’s plans regarding the “blue check” badge.

In a quote tweet, Ruffalo said, “Elon. Please — for the love of decency — get off Twitter, hand the keys over to someone who does this as an actual job, and get on with running Tesla and SpaceX. You are destroying your credibility. It’s just not a good look.”

Mark Ruffalo is not the only one who disagrees with Musk’s actions following his takeover of Twitter because many celebrities including Whoopi Goldberg are announcing that they are quitting the app.

On her ABC show, Goldberg said, “I’m getting off today because I just feel like it’s so messy, and I’m tired of now having certain kinds of attitudes blocked now getting back on. So I’m gonna get out, and if it settles down enough and I feel more comfortable maybe I’ll come back. But as of tonight, I’m done with Twitter.” 

Seeing Twitter face immediate cybersecurity threats due to a reduction in the company’s staff, we can only wait and see how the situation develops further but none of us will be too surprised when it reaches the height of being unusable. 

Musk’s illustration Via PixaBay/s7akti

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