Ten days of Twitter chaos

Twitter has long been seen by Silicon Valley investors as mismanaged, but with a lot of potentials.

Mr Musk has enticed his wealthy friends to invest, arguing that Twitter – in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing – could be great. Freedom of expression would abound and the benefits would follow.

But the first 10 days at the helm exposed Mr Musk’s lack of experience running a social media business.

It was all smiles when he took over, tweeting: “The bird is released”.

However, Mr Musk’s initial directives appeared to be at odds with his comments from the summer. While he had said he was a ‘free speech absolutist’ and that Donald Trump would be allowed access to the platform, he has now argued that a ‘council’ full of ‘diverse’ voices would be set. in place to decide controversial moderation decisions and permanent suspensions.

Mr Musk announced a policy very similar to that of Facebook – which has an “oversight board” for such matters.

He also said the moderation policy would not be changed in the short term.

But he announced a big change – to Twitter’s verification system.

The platform charges users who want a blue tick verified account $8 (£7) a month after initial reports of a $20 monthly fee received complaints from some celebrities including author Stephen King. This price reduction may have already been decided, but it gave the impression that the price was not thought of and that famous users dictated the policy.

Subscription route to profit

There have been other criticisms as well.

The policy would be implemented in a few days. Anyone could pay to be verified and would not only get a blue check but would also have priority in responses, mentions and searches. In other words, accounts can now pay for prestige and be strengthened on the platform.

The announcement of the policy immediately raised questions about authenticity and fairness. The content would now float above the others because the user had paid for their monthly subscription.

Mr Musk said his policy was a way to address Twitter’s bot problem. Bulk verification would eliminate spam accounts. But it was also about the money – he thinks a subscription model for Twitter is a way to make a profit.

Others asked about what opening up the verification process to the spread of misinformation would mean. If verification is open to everyone, how could Twitter confirm that everyone is who they say they are?

As the midterm elections in the United States approach, some dreaded people could pose as poll coordinators or journalists and spread voter misinformation.

It seemed obvious that a lot of human resources would be needed to adequately verify the expected flood of new accounts. any of Twitter’s 300 million daily active users can apply.

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During his first week, Mr Musk reportedly asked managers to draw up lists of employees to be released.

On Thursday – less than seven days after Mr Musk officially bought the company – employees received an email telling them their jobs were at risk. About half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees were laid off as a result.

This huge downsizing has raised more than a few eyebrows. Why pay $ 44 billion for a company and then lay off half its staff?

The timing also seemed odd: how was such a quick estimate made of who to fire?

Workers were told they would receive an official confirmation email at 16:00 GMT on Friday, but for many, it never arrived.

Simon Balmain, a senior community manager who was logged out of his Twitter account, told the BBC he was “in the dark”.

Twitter’s offices were reportedly closed to all employees, accepting those doing mission-critical jobs. Employees were banned from their accounts en masse. Few people knew what was going on.

Questions about moderation were immediately raised. How was Twitter able to stop misinformation and hate speech on its platform when so many employees were fired?

On Friday night, Twitter’s integrity officer, Yoel Roth, tweeted that although half the company was fired, those on the front lines of moderation suffered “least impact”. But how could Twitter introduce an unprecedented policy change in the structure of its verified account in such a state of flux?

On Saturday it was announced that the new verification process would continue – anyone could request a blue tick.

But then New York Times reports suggested that the trial had been postponed, until after the middle of the term.

It seemed Twitter recognized that such a consistent policy shift, so close to key elections, could cause chaos.

And on Sunday, Bloomberg reported that Twitter was now asking some fired employees to come back – that it was a mistake to let some of them go. Twitter did not respond to requests from the BBC to comment on these stories.

At times it was difficult to follow – and we are only 10 days away. But the chaos suggests that if Mr. Musk has a short-term strategy to change Twitter, he won’t exactly go according to plan.

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