Isadora Teich

11/9/2022
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A Look At The Early Days of Twitter Under Elon Musk

As of now, Elon Musk has only been at the helm of Twitter for a little more than week. There have been massive layoffs, which some have said may carry some legal consequences.

There have also been a series of controversies surrounding both how Musk has run the company so far, as well as his own use of the platform.

Let’s take a look at the discussion surrounding Twitter under Elon Musk.

Twitter’s Advertising Problem

Elon Musk initially agreed to buy Twitter and make it a private company in April of 2022. He then tried to back out of the agreement, claiming that Twitter had misresprented the portion of bot users.

After months of on-and-off-again antics and public arguing, he was eventually forced to complete his buyout to avoid trial in a lawsuit from Twitter. As of October 2022, Elon Musk is the owner of the company.

His takeover has been a cause of concern for advertisers. Previously, many large global corporations, like General Motors Company and General Mills Inc., all ran Twitter ads. Under Musk, they have reportedly pulled all of the Twitter ads.

Due to Musk’s own comments about moderation and free speech, as well as his massive staff cuts, many large corporations simply do not trust him to moderate the site adequately.

Global media relations and advertising companies like Havas Media Group and Interpublic Group of Companies Inc., have also suggested that their clients stop running Twitter ads.

In addition, numerous civic groups have written a signed letter to Twitter’s corporate advertisers.

They have urged advertisers to tell Musk that they too will pull their ads “if he follows through on plans to undermine the social network’s community standards and content moderation.”

It is important to note that the vast majority of Twitter’s revenue comes from selling advertising services. If large corporations no longer want to advertise there, this could be potentially devestating for Twitter.

A Spike In Offensive Content

So far, advertisers’ uncertainty about Twitter under Elon Musk has caused Twitter to drop in worth drastically. According to Elon Musk, this is the fault of activists, who are trying ‘to destroy free speech.’

It is important to note that companies around the world began to pull their ads before any activist outcry.

Musk has previously described himself as a ‘Free Speech Absolutist’ and vowed to lessen Twitter content restrictions according to the BBC.

This likely led many bad-faith actors to assume that there would be no moderation at all under Musk, which led to a spike in offensive content in the first days after his takeover.

The use of racist terms on Twitter reportedly spiked after Musk’s takeover, according to some researchers. Yoel Roth, the head of safety and integrity at Twitter, said a small number of accounts posted “a ton of tweets that include slurs and other derogatory terms” over the two days through Oct. 29.

Unfortunately, there was also an outpouring of antisemitism during these days:

At about the same time, Twitter was flooded with antisemitic tweets from supporters of the rapper Ye, a friend of Musk whose account was temporarily suspended for tweets about “the Jews,” as well as pro basketball star Kyrie Irving, suspended by the Brooklyn Nets after he refused to apologize for tweeting a link to an antisemitic film.

While Musk blames activists, it is more likely that large companies simply do not want to risk their branded content appearing next to any content which could be considered offensive or controversial.

Advertising Veteran Sir Martin Sorrel who founded the advertising giant WPP told the BBC that large companies boycotting social media sites over concerns surrounding data misuse and hate speech is actually not new.

For example, the large consumer brand manufacturer Unilever boycotted Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook in the past for these reasons.

Mass Layoffs

Previously, Twitter had about 7,500 employees. While the company has not announced exactly how many workers it has terminated, news reports have estimated that about half of Twitter’s staff has been let go.

This is potentially one big reason that advertisers have become suspicious. Some simply do not believe that Twitter can continue to function with an estimated half of its staff.

How Twitter under Elon Musk handled these layoffs has received a lot of criticism. One worker claimed they were suddenly logged out of their company accounts remotely without warning.

Many workers basically had to figure out whether they were fired or not by following Elon Musk’s Tweets and waiting to see if their company accounts stopped working.

This mass firing seems to have been done in a haphazard way. Twitter is now reportedly scrambling to re-hire some of the employees they fired.

Meanwhile, Musk was criticized for tweeting and deleting a political conspiracy instead of facilitating communication with employees.

These layoffs may also lead to legal action. According to The Washington Post:

A class-action lawsuit has already been filed, accusing the company of failing to comply with the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (or Warn Act), which requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide at least 60 calendar days’ advance written notice of a mass layoff.

Elon Musk Takes Control

On top of the mass termination of employees, Musk also fired all of the previous top Twitter executives. He also dissolved the board, taking complete control of Twitter as its sole director.

Since the takeover, Twitter has reportedly lost more than $4 million a day.

This may have also played a part in many advertisers losing confidence. Numerous sweeping changes have occurred in less than two weeks.

Users Protest The Launch of Twitter Blue

Rumors have been swirling around for some time that Elon Musk was going to build some form of subscription model into Twitter to generate more revenue.

Some rumors claimed that Twitter was going to charge as much as $20 a month for it. Many celebrities and others complained about this. Stephen King even reacted in a tweet which went viral.

Musk responded that it was necessary to charge users for verification in order to ‘defeat bots and trolls’ and ‘pay the bills.’ He also suggested an $8 price, which seems to have stuck as it is the price of the newly launched Twitter subscription ‘Twitter Blue.’

Users protested his suggestion of subscription based verification by changing their account names to ‘Elon Musk’ en masse and mocking him.

Some feel that in response to this directly, Elon Musk decided to ban all of the accounts protesting with new rules.

This led to even more criticism, as he had previously said that he was buying Twitter to protect free speech.

After his takeover, he even made a viral tweet implying that under prior leadership comedy had been ‘illegal’ on Twitter and he would bring it back.

Twitter Blue, which costs users about $8 a month for verification, was launched on November 11th. Most of the features it offers have yet to be fully launched.

Other Changes Elon Musk Wants To Bring To Twitter

So far, Elon Musk has proposed a number of changes to improve the site. However, most of them have been overshadowed by reports of the chaos surrounding the downsizing, subscription element, and issues with advertisers.

Musk has said that he wants to implement a number of changes rapidly to make Twitter more user-friendly in general. For example, he wants to enable users to add long texts to tweets, so they no longer have to use screenshots.

Musk also made another incredibly interesting promise which has been almost ignored. He wants to add creator monetization to all forms of content.

Something we have talked about before on the blog is the vibrant content creator economy, which is incredibly lucrative around the world on platforms like TikTok and YouTube.

While it has not been discussed much, Elon Musk adding Twitter to the mix in a competitive way could profoundly change an entire digital industry.

Musk has also said that he wants to update Twitter’s search function. This is great news for users, as Twitter’s search function is notoriously lackluster.

Final Thoughts on Elon Musk and Twitter

Ultimatelty, Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover has been quite chaotic and met with a lot of criticism.

The positive or promising changes he wants to make have been completely overshadowed by the lack of trust of major corporate advertisers and a disastrous downsizing.

However, it is important to remember that, despite the hype in the news cycle, Elon Musk has been at the helm of Twitter for less than two weeks.

It is simply too soon to tell what this means for Twitter. While some claim that Elon Musk can do no wrong, and others are already churning out articles about how he has killed Twitter, the reality is that he has only been in control of the company for a short time.

No one really knows what will happen.

What do you think of all of this? Comment below.

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