Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in! pic.twitter.com/D68z4K2wq7
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 26, 2022
According to some, the world is tumbling over a cliff…
Sullen employees entering the building during our visit had nothing to share. None made eye contact as they plodded by. Those who presented as female performed determined “take back the night” walks, delicately balancing cold avoidance with an unconvincing pretense of fearlessness. Musk seems to be following a methodical course as he reshapes social media, but one might wonder how many of his employees will still be on the payroll next Friday.Paul du Quenoy, “Hate and hoaxes at Twitter headquarters as Musk takes over” at American Spectator (October 30, 2022)
Some who won’t be on the payroll any longer are “CEO Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal, general counsel Sean Edgett, and head of ‘legal policy, trust, and safety’ Vijaya Gadde, with the top executives reportedly ejected from headquarters in haste.” If those ex-execs are wise, they will make haste to the bank: They are reportedly splitting $200 million dollars in severance.
Vijaya Gadde was associated with some of Twitter’s controversial censorship policies:
More than 500 other Twitter employees have left in recent weeks.
Update: Twitter moderators have had their power reduced.
Musk, now the self-styled “Chief Twit,” probably won’t fire 75% of Twitter employees, as has been claimed. He is fond of colorful statements but that is not a practical strategy. However, he will need to have a hard look at the books. The company has a viable concept but it simply hasn’t been making much money.
Not only that, it is plagued with problems around child porn and bot accounts, which raise legitimate concern about where the money Twitter does make is coming from. And, of course, there is the widely publicized issue of politically driven censorship of even mainstream dissent.
One thing Musk has asked Twitter employees to do is print out their code — frozen once the deal closed — for review. Tesla engineers have now been called in to review it. Perhaps some problems around censorship and child porn might be spotted in the code. And who knows what else?
Musk’s goal, in his own words:
“The reason I acquired Twitter is because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence,” Musk wrote in an uncharacteristically long message for the Tesla CEO, who typically projects his thoughts in one-line tweets.Barbara Ortutay, Tom Krisher, Matt O’Brien and The Associated Press, “‘The bird has been freed’: Musk ushers in the new Twitter era after taking control and firing 3 top execs” at Fortune (October 28, 2022)
But most of the tech press despises Musk and has little use for the more open Twitter he espouses. To hear Wired tell it, Elon Musk’s Twitter “will be chaos”:
In late April, after Twitter accepted Musk’s offer, bot watchers saw a flurry of new right-wing accounts and warned that people who had abandoned Twitter after their posts or accounts were consistently removed by moderators were returning to the site in anticipation of the Musk regime.
All of this has led experts in online moderation — including some on Twitter’s online safety advisory council — to fear Musk will usher in a new era of trolling on the platform. “A Musk-owned Twitter could be disastrous for women and marginalized communities already facing abuse and targeted harassment on the platform,” says Christopher Bouzy of Bot Sentinel, a popular bot-detection system.Chris Stokel-Walker, “Elon Musk’s Twitter Will Be Chaos” at Wired (October 28, 2022)
A bewildering variety of possible changes has been discussed, including making Twitter’s elite Blue Check Marks pay a small fee for the privilege. Musk probably intends to make the site more subscription-dependent. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, The Babylon Bee, currently banned from Twitter, has been celebrating with satires, including “10 most controversial things you can finally say on Twitter” and “Heartbroken progressives forced to resort to old-fashioned technique of just not reading tweets they don’t like.”