Elon Musk became Twitter Inc.’s new owner on Oct. 27, closing out the US$44-billion deal and a months-long takeover that included many twists and turns.
Since then, the drama has only intensified. Within days of becoming chief executive officer, Mr. Musk went on a firing spree of executives, board members and employees. His overhaul of the social media platform has also sparked changes to its verification system, core policies, content moderation and advertising.
In the latest news on Tuesday, Mr. Musk announced he will step down as CEO of Twitter “as soon as I find someone foolish enough to take the job.” He made the announcement after he posted a poll to his Twitter page, asking followers if he should step down as the head of the company. More than 17 million people replied, with 57.5 per cent saying yes.
The roller-coaster decision-making has been the reality for Twitter since Mr. Musk took over in October. Here’s a look – in many ways, a reminder, because it’s been moving quickly – at what’s been happening.
Massive layoffs begin
One of Mr. Musk’s first moves after taking complete control of Twitter was to fire former CEO Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal, chief legal officer Vijaya Gadde and general counsel Sean Edgett. Within days, he also fired the company’s board of directors and made himself the board’s sole member – giving himself absolute control over the social media platform.
On Nov. 3, a memo was sent out to Twitter employees to inform them of imminent layoffs. Staff were instructed to watch for an e-mail with the subject line: “Your Role at Twitter.” The company laid off about 3,700 people – 50 per cent of its employees.
Employees showed their solidarity for staff who were laid off by flooding the Twitter platform with the hashtag #OneTeam and blue hearts.
A lawsuit was filed on Nov. 3 against Twitter, alleging that the company violated federal laws by failing to provide proper notice of the mass layoffs. Another lawsuit filed on Dec. 4 in a San Francisco federal court accuses the social media company of disproportionately targeting female employees for layoffs.
Mr. Musk then issued an ultimatum to remaining employees. In an e-mail to staff on Nov. 16, he said that Twitter would “need to be extremely hardcore” to build “a breakthrough Twitter 2.0,″ and employees who chose to stay should expect long, intense hours of work. Those who decide to leave would receive three months’ severance pay. Employees were required to choose by the following day.
More than 110 employees are estimated to have quit after Mr. Musk’s ultimatum, according to Reuters.
Twitter overhauls verification system
One of Mr. Musk’s first major acts was revamping Twitter’s verification process. He wanted users to pay a monthly fee for the blue checkmark, which was launched in 2009 to prevent impersonations of high-profile accounts such as celebrities, politicians and journalists.
Twitter launched Twitter Blue, a subscription service granting blue checks to anyone willing to pay US$8 a month. But it was inundated by imposter accounts, including those impersonating Musk’s businesses Tesla and SpaceX, so Twitter suspended the service days after its launch.
Soon after, the company announced plans to roll out a revised verified service with different coloured checks for individuals, companies and governments – gold for companies, grey for governments and a blue check for individuals including celebrities (at the time of publication, The Globe and Mail’s main account has a gold checkmark). Mr. Musk said verified accounts would be manually authenticated before a check is activated.
Twitter Blue was relaunched on Dec. 10. The service costs US$8 a month for web users, and US$11 a month for iPhone users. The difference in price reflects Mr. Musk’s complaints toward Apple, including its 30-per-cent cut of all digital sales made through apps. Twitter says subscribers will see fewer ads, be able to edit posts, be able to upload longer videos, and have their tweets featured more prominently.
Companies pull major ad dollars
A growing group of companies has paused advertising on Twitter since the social media platform was acquired by Mr. Musk.
- General Mills Inc.
- United Airlines Holdings Inc.
- Mondelez International Inc.
- General Motors Inc.
- Pfizer Inc.
- Volkswagen AG
Advertisers are concerned about content moderation remaining as stringent under Mr. Musk – a self-described “free speech absolutist” – as it has been, and whether staying on Twitter might tarnish their brands.
Since his takeover, Mr. Musk said the company has seen a reduction in revenue. “Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists,” Mr. Musk said in a tweet.
About 90 per cent of Twitter’s revenue comes from advertisers but it’s far from the biggest platform that advertisers turn to for digital marketing. Google, Amazon and Meta account for about 75 per cent of digital ads, with all other platforms combined making up the other 25 per cent.
Twitter will account for 0.9 per cent of worldwide digital ad spending in 2022, according to projections by Insider Intelligence.
High-profile users quit Twitter
Here is a list of notable public figures who have decided to leave Twitter after Mr. Musk’s takeover of the company:
- Elton John
- Meek Mill
- Jim Carrey
- Whoopi Goldberg
- Shonda Rhimes
- Jameela Jamil
- Gigi Hadid
- David Simon
- Jack White
- Toni Braxton
- Trent Reznor
- Sara Bareilles
Elon Musk overturns Twitter bans and suspends new accounts
In November, the Twitter owner reinstated former U.S. president Donald Trump on Twitter nearly two years after he was banned from the social media platform after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots. He asked his followers through a Twitter poll about reinstatement, with 51.8 per cent voting in favour of Mr. Trump’s return.
Majorie Taylor Greene, Andrew Tate, Babylon Bee, Kathy Griffin, Jordan Peterson and Project Veritas have all had their Twitter accounts reinstated after previously breaking Twitter’s rules. Kanye West also had his account reinstated on Nov. 20, but the rapper was again suspended in December for “incitement to violence” after posting a photo of a swastika.
Twitter is in the process of reinstating about 60,000 accounts that were originally suspended for violating the platform’s content policies.
In December, Mr. Musk had also suspended the accounts of several journalists over a controversy on publishing public data about the billionaire’s plane. On Dec. 17, Mr. Musk reinstated the accounts after criticism from government officials, advocacy groups and journalism organizations.
Twitter sees a rise in hate speech
In the days after Mr. Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, hate speech has surged on the platform. According to Network Contagion Research Institute, an independent organization that identifies and forecasts cybersocial threats, the use of the N-word increased nearly 500 per cent on Oct. 28, the day after Mr. Musk took control.
Last week, Twitter disbanded its Trust and Safety Council, an advisory group of around 100 independent civil, human-rights and other organizations formed in 2016. The volunteer group provided expertise and guidance on how Twitter could better combat hate speech, harassment, child exploitation, suicide and other harms but didn’t have any decision-making authority and didn’t review specific content disputes.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said it has expressed to Mr. Musk its concerns about “the dangerous, life-threatening hate and conspiracies that have proliferated on Twitter” under his watch.
Twitter undergoes other significant changes
Twitter prohibits users from promoting Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon accounts
Twitter said on Sunday it would no longer allow the “free promotion of certain social media platforms” on its site. The move would prohibit users from promoting accounts or posting links from social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Nostr and Post.
The new policy instantly sparked criticism from Twitter users, many of whom said they wouldn’t be able to link out to their own businesses under the new rules. Mr. Musk responded to the criticism in a tweet by proposing a tweak to the policy.
“Policy will be adjusted to suspending accounts only when that account’s *primary* purpose is promotion of competitors, which essentially falls under the no spam rule,” Mr. Musk tweeted.
Twitter bans live location sharing
Twitter announced a policy change that prohibits users from sharing the live location of another person: “When someone shares an individual’s live location on Twitter, there is an increased risk of physical harm. Moving forward, we’ll remove tweets that share this information, and accounts dedicated to sharing someone else’s live location will be suspended.”
Elon Musk looks for new Twitter CEO
Mr. Musk is actively searching for a new Twitter CEO. He recently said he will step down as head of the social media platform once he finds a replacement, but will still run some key divisions of the social media platform.
“I will resign as CEO as soon as I find someone foolish enough to take the job!” Musk tweeted. “After that, I will just run the software & servers teams.”
This is the first time Mr. Musk has mentioned stepping down as chief of the social media platform, after Twitter users voted for him to resign in a poll, which the billionaire launched on Sunday evening.
In the poll, 57.5 per cent of around 17.5 million people voted “yes.” Musk had said he would abide by the results, but has not provided a timeframe for when he will step down and no successor has been named.
With reports from Reuters and the Associated Press.