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To the casual Twitter user – someone who perhaps uses it just to maintain up with news, friends, and “weird medieval guys” – it’d look as if nothing has modified. The platform has the identical design it all the time did, still has its verified users with their checkmarks, the tweets still flow, and Donald Trump continues to be not posting.
But behind the scenes, almost the whole lot has modified. All of Twitter’s leadership and most of its staff are gone, replaced primarily by Elon Musk in the primary case and by no person within the latter. The corporate’s content-moderation rules have been weakened, and almost the entire people previously banned at the moment are coming back. Advertisers are avoiding it amid fears that their sponsored posts could appear alongside more controversial ones. There have been warnings that the positioning could break.
That tension, between the whole lot changing and nothing, has characterised the entire of Musk’s first month at Twitter. He, his supporters and his enemies have all forecast that the platform may very well be about to disintegrate, and make the world worse with it. But the positioning stays largely the identical. Whatever you predicted would occur to Twitter when Musk took over – whether the changes can be big, small, bad or good – you can be each right and improper at the identical time.
Perhaps essentially the most defining tweet in Twitter’s history was posted 10 years ago, by what on the time was considered a robot. “The whole lot happens a lot,” the account @Horse_ebooks wrote. It has never been more true than since Musk acquired the corporate.
But what has actually happened within the month since Musk took over Twitter? And what does it suggest about where it goes?
The story of the Musk takeover may very well be traced back to June 2009, when he made the account that will go on to be followed by 120 million people (on the time of writing). Back then, Twitter was still young: every day, people posted lower than a tenth of the variety of tweets they do today. Further, the positioning continuously crashed, and it was still more of a spotlight for curiosity than an actual force on the earth.
Musk’s first tweet got here a 12 months after he joined. With its concentrate on impersonation, it aligned well with one in all his central concerns 12 years later, when he took over the corporate.
Musk’s tweets continued. Because the years went by, he built up an unlimited following for his posts on a spread of topics: some seriously promoting his business interests, or his views on world affairs; others retweeting often crude web humour. Some were a mixture of all of this stuff, as when his Boring Company tunnel-digging start-up began selling “burnt hair” perfume.
He was self-confessedly obsessive about the place. “Some people use their hair to precise themselves, I exploit Twitter,” he wrote, in only one in all a series of tweets and remarks about how much he enjoyed using the platform.
All through those years, Musk occasionally expressed an interest in owning Twitter. In 2017, for example, he posted “I really like Twitter” – and one other user responded suggesting he should purchase it, leading Musk to ask: “How much is it?”
In recent times, those posts became more common, together with expressions of concern for the long run of the platform. One among his key worries was the variety of bots – which regularly responded to his tweets using fake accounts that were designed to seem like him, in an try to trick people into crypto scams. These concerns became linked together with his desire to purchase the corporate.
The true story of the takeover began in January 2022, when Musk began buying up Twitter stock. He initially did so quietly, using the general public market to extend his holding in such a way that it passed suddenly.
Then, in April, he announced he had bought a 9.2 per cent holding, becoming Twitter’s largest shareholder. He was invited to hitch the corporate’s board, accepted, after which backed out – after which, on 14 April, he offered, in a tweet, to purchase the corporate entirely. Over the months that followed, Musk tried to tug out of the deal, but after a series of attempted escapes it became clear that the expensive legal process would force him to purchase it anyway.
At the top of last month, Musk bought the corporate. He immediately declared himself “Chief Twit”, dismissed the management, dissolved the board, and established a “war room” from which he would implement change. On 28 October, he sent his first post because the platform’s latest owner.
After that, Musk’s attempts at stamping his mark on Twitter began in earnest. From his war room, he began an assault on much of what Twitter’s old and maligned management had left behind: its content-moderation rules, its employees, the technical underpinnings of the app, and more.
The primary major decision was to chop Twitter’s workforce, roughly in half. This had been widely rumoured ahead of the takeover, but reports of lay-offs got here just hours after it actually happened.
Vast numbers of Twitter staff were made redundant, while others quit. Even before the primary wave of exits was over, nearly all of the corporate’s employees had gone, including entire major teams. Most of the cuts were in areas of the business that had nothing to do with engineering, reminiscent of communications and content moderation.
Immediately, Twitter’s engineers began warning that the cuts meant the positioning could begin to collapse. (It has behaved oddly at times, but is yet to stop working completely.)
The staff that remained were told they needed to work long and intensive hours to maintain the corporate going, or face further redundancies. A photograph posted on Twitter looked as if it would show one in all its employees sleeping on the ground, and Musk, too, said that he can be staying put until Twitter was fixed.
It is a tone that has characterised Musk’s leadership of his other businesses, reminiscent of SpaceX and Tesla. Staff were asked to commit to “hardcore” working conditions in the event that they desired to work there – or to stop doing so. (Notably, at those firms, Musk has a much bigger management team in place, helping to melt the impact of his rigorous approach; the chief operations officer at SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, has been credited as the one who gets things done.)
Concurrently engineers were being laid off, they were also being asked to introduce Musk’s planned latest features. Once more they did so, under threat of being sacked in the event that they failed to fulfill the standards expected by their latest boss.
On 9 November, the primary of those big features began to roll out. Users could pay $8 (£6.65) to get their very own verification checkmark, Musk announced. Until then, the checkmark had been used to point a verified account: that’s, one whose owner had been confirmed because the person the account claimed to represent. After the brand new feature was introduced, nonetheless, anyone could pay a fee to have their account look real.
And lots of did. One user pretended to be the official Nintendo account, and posted a vulgar picture of the cartoon character Mario that remained on the positioning for hours; one other dressed their account as much as seem like it belonged to pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, posted that “insulin is free now”, and triggered real movement within the financial markets.
Twitter struggled to contain the chaos: one in all the more outstanding attempts to accomplish that involved rolling out a latest, black, “official” badge that did similar to the old verified one, after which turning it back off after a couple of hours. Two days later, Twitter and Musk admitted temporary defeat: on 11 November, the paid verification facility was turned off until it may very well be fixed.
The issue with verification continues. Musk has tried a complete range of fixes, from requiring parody accounts to jot down “parody” of their name to using different sorts of verified checkmark, but none of them have yet worked consistently enough to bring back the paid verification feature.
That chaos – in addition to the overall sense of uncertainty across the takeover – led to warnings from advertisers that it may very well be “high-risk” to proceed promoting their products on Twitter. Promoting accounts for nearly the entire company’s revenue.
Musk’s response was to court advertisers while concurrently suggesting that they were deserting the platform in consequence of the behaviour of “activist groups”. However the verification chaos was partly the results of an effort to make Twitter less depending on promoting – by bringing on board latest sources of revenue – and so Musk has pushed on with it, even when he’s yet to search out a way by which it may possibly actually function.
At the identical time, he has attempted to construct the platform’s popularity. He claimed, on Twitter, that the positioning was the “biggest click driver on the web by far” – an assertion that will not be true. He has also drawn attention to the record variety of users on the positioning, its continuing growth, and its success during events reminiscent of the World Cup.
A few of those latest users could also be old ones that Musk has let back onto the platform. On 18 November, he announced it was “Freedom Friday” and restored a spread of accounts that had previously been banned, lots of them for transphobic tweets. He also brought back Donald Trump’s account, which had been removed amid fears that the previous president could use it to foment deadly protest within the wake of the Capitol riots. (At time of writing, Trump has not actually tweeted since his account was reinstated.)
This burst of redemption may develop into a sustained one. Days after “Freedom Friday”, Musk ran a poll asking if he should declare a “general amnesty” for banned accounts, and proceed to reinstate them so long as their owners had not broken the law or engaged in flagrant spam. At the identical time, he began to post yet more about what he termed the “culture war”, and the importance of freedom of speech.
Musk has emphasised that his focus is on allowing freedom of speech but not “freedom of reach”, with posts that include hateful or other problematic content being made harder for other users to search out. This appears to be an attempt to scale back the burden of content moderation while keeping advertisers completely happy. It has led to many more hateful posts on the positioning, in line with the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which says that Twitter is “becoming more dangerous than ever”.
Nevertheless, Twitter claims that the changes are working, and that the “impressions” on posts that include hateful speech are down. Musk made the claim amid a latest concentrate on “Twitter 2.0” – which he specified by a presentation that also said sign-ups were at an all-time high, impersonation is starting to fall, and that Twitter would go on to beat Amazon and TikTok by becoming the “the whole lot app”. (The features promised in Musk’s plan had been tried before by Twitter engineers, in line with researcher Jane Manchun Wong, who found that work on all of the newly announced updates had taken place years ago.)
Within the weeks since then, Musk’s focus at Twitter has bounced rapidly. His interests could be tracked on his Twitter account, which has also featured personal posts, reminiscent of the one which referred to his collection of guns and Food plan Coke cans on his bedside. He’s tweeting greater than ever, about the whole lot from content moderation to latest features for the platform.
But most of the issues he has aimed to handle have seen little progress. Overall, Musk appears to be attempting to introduce latest features, bring advertisers to the positioning (or find alternative sources of income for the beleaguered company), and make staff work harder – in addition to making changes to Twitter’s content-moderation rules and systems.
The proposed answers to those issues change day-after-day. But the issues that Musk is targeted on are all the time much the identical – they usually are, in lots of cases, the identical ones which have troubled Twitter since long before he took it over.
As such, the near way forward for Musk’s Twitter looks quite a bit prefer it all the time has: attempting to turn engagement and high-profile status right into a profitable product. Whether you start on the founding of Twitter, at Musk registering his own account, or when the billionaire and the corporate finally got here together a month ago, the story is way the identical.
But trying to the long run, it’s finding solutions to those problems that may matter essentially the most, as Twitter’s latest owner tries to make the corporate work in line with his vision. Musk wants it to be the the whole lot app – and the whole lot, as Twitter taught us, happens a lot.