By: Bhavya Surapaneni
Castle Pines, Colorado
On November 16, billionaire and tech mogul Elon Musk sent a message to the employees of Twitter: they had the choice to either commit to a new “hardcore” work environment or leave the company with severance pay. Over the weekend, Musk temporarily closed Twitter offices until Monday, November 21st, without providing a reason to employees.
Musk acquired Twitter on October 27th in a $44 billion deal after a 6-month-long acquisition that began in April of 2022, when he became Twitter’s largest stakeholder. When he finally possessed the multi-billion dollar company, Musk tweeted that he “did it to try to help humanity, whom I love,” rather than buying it solely for monetary reasons.
Still, his recent actions match those that he took at SpaceX and Tesla. Before Musk’s announcement to workers of changes to Twitter’s work environment, Twitter had nearly 7,500 employees. The day before Thanksgiving, Twitter had 2,700 remaining employees and announced that they are now hiring. This mimics Musk’s 2018 handling of Tesla’s production crisis building their mass-market vehicle, when he fired employees regularly and urged his workers to prioritize Tesla’s prosperity over their lives outside of work. Musk’s formation of a “hardcore” environment at Twitter with a large workload and high stakes isn’t new for the mogul.
As days passed after the ultimatum, Musk’s intended changes, as well as some unintentional ones, began presenting themselves to Twitter users. One of Musk’s well-known plans for the new Twitter was Twitter Blue, a paid verification system in which users pay $7.99 per month to receive the infamous blue checkmark that indicates status, fame, and reputation for social media influencers, politicians, and online personalities of all sorts, as well as other premium features. Immediately after release, Twitter saw the creation of fake, imposter accounts with checkmarks, and a few days afterward, the checkmark subscription service disappeared from the iOS app for many users.
On November 25th, Musk announced via a tweet that Twitter would roll out changes to the verification system on Friday, December 2nd. The new color-coded verification system entails a blue check for individuals, a gray check for government entities, and a gold for companies. Additionally, the new plan includes manual verification of every account before they receive a checkmark, which Musk described as “painful, but necessary.”
Other problems have arisen for the tech giant in recent days. Notably, Twitter lost half of its top 100 advertisers since Musk took over, including Chipotle, Ford, Jeep, Merck, and other high-profile corporations. A Media Matters America report via NPR stated that those 50 advertisers had spent $2 billion for Twitter ads since 2020. Additionally, critics spoke out after Musk reinstated former president Donald Trump’s Twitter account, a decision he made after posting a Twitter poll asking Twitter users for their input—51.8% voted for Musk to restore Trump’s account. The reinstatement served as a classic example of the foot-in-the-door phenomenon, as Musk stated just days later that he would reinstate three other controversial Twitter users who had been banned: psychologist and author Jordan Peterson, comedian Kathy Griffin, and satire news site Babylon Bee. The reinstatements created a media firestorm, and undoubtedly contributed to so many companies halting their Twitter advertisements.
Musk has even stated that he’ll go to great lengths in the case that tech giants Google and Apple remove Twitter from their respective app stores. Due to Musk’s unflagging commitment to “free speech” on the new Twitter, the platform may violate Apple and Google’s standards and regulations. Further, Musk tweeted about his grievances with iOS and Android app store fees of 30%, even tagging the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, sending a clear message about his perspective on Apple and Google. Conservative political commentator Liz Wheeler tweeted that, “If Apple & Google boot Twitter from their app stores, @elonmusk should produce his own smartphone.” Musk’s response was that he hopes it doesn’t come to that, but, “if there is no other choice, I will make an alternative phone.”
The success, and ramifications, of Musk’s Twitter 2.0 efforts have begun to manifest, and the coming weeks will be critical for the world to understand what the future of Twitter and the greater tech industry holds.