Running the world’s most overpriced car company seems to have done nothing to prepare Elon Musk for the challenge of overseeing the cesspool of snark known as Twitter. Musk’s $44 billion vanity purchase has been beleaguered from the start. His decision to buy the platform was met with acrimony from top executives and rank-and-file workers alike. In a bizarre twist, Musk attempted to renege on the deal, only to be forced back to the table under threat of legal action.
But now that he’s officially in charge of the platform, everything’s fine, right?
What’s Everyone So Mad About?
Musk’s takeover has shaken Twitter to its core. One of the most amusing fiascos to come out of this whole mess is the widespread confusion caused by changes to how blue check marks are doled out.
Before Musk’s takeover, blue checks were a verification measure provided by Twitter for free to distinguish trustworthy or official sources. Common blue check mark recipients included journalists, politicians, celebrities, and company representatives. As part of his commitment to free speech, Musk made the executive decision to level the playing field by allowing anyone to purchase a blue check mark regardless of their credentials.
In an entirely predictable twist of fate, anonymous individuals flooded Twitter with fake accounts for everyone from Lebron James to Nintendo of America. Most entertaining were the numerous fake Musk accounts, most of which were swiftly banned from the platform. Musk quickly backtracked by restricting the sale of blue check marks to accounts made prior to November 9th. A short-lived alternative gray check mark system was discontinued just hours after being announced.
More worrying has been the explosion in hate speech since Musk loosened content restrictions and severely reduced the number of moderation teams. The use of the n-word on the site increased by an eye-watering 500% after the acquisition. Not only have trolls grown bolder, but Twitter has recently reinstated a number of previously banned accounts for controversial figures such as the right-wing Canadian author Jordan Peterson, the conservative-leaning satirical publication The Babylon Bee, and former president Donald Trump.
Like a barbarian chieftain consolidating his grip over a conquered tribe, Musk’s first move upon taking control of the company was to sack the C-suite and many top executives. Unfortunately for the rank and file, change hasn’t stopped at the top. It didn’t take Musk long to purge roughly half of Twitter’s 7,500 full-time employees and let go of an additional 4,400 to 5,500 contractors.
Workers who managed to evade the cascade of pink slips are hardly better off. Musk’s workplace initiatives, such as the decision to end remote work and more recent hardcore posturing, seem laser-focused on forcing out any workers with better options and a modicum of self-respect.
He’s not stopping there. With the company crippled, you might think he’d play nice with his remaining staff. Nope. To date, Musk has fired at least 20 former staff members for daring to criticize him or his changes. These capricious firings have further damaged already low morale. With major tech companies tightening their belts in a brutal run of tech layoffs, now is not the best time to be looking for work in the tech industry. But for many straining under the uncertainty and overbearing expectations of Twitter’s new Chief Twit, the prospect of quitting grows more enticing by the day.
What’s Coming Down the Pipeline?
Despite all the chaos, bad feelings, and just plain weirdness accompanying Musk’s takeover, there is a faint light at the end of the tunnel. If Twitter manages to pull through and not go bankrupt, as Musk warned employees might happen at a recent all-company meeting, we will get to experience Twitter 2.0. Unfortunately, what Twitter 2.0 will look like isn’t exactly clear.
Musk’s intention of taking Twitter back to its roots may result in a slew of fancy new features. Meanwhile, his repeated statements championing Twitter as a bastion of free speech will likely push away some long-time users of the platform while enticing more freewheeling individuals to make it their go-to social media platform. Whether advertisers stick around or abandon ship for sites with more stringent moderation policies remains to be seen.
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