Elon Musk and Twitter: Is he in over his head?

Twitter will not be the largest social media platform on the market, however it’s definitely some of the influential, as a result of what occurs on Twitter would not simply keep on Twitter. Which is perhaps why the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, is such a fan.

Musk purchased the corporate for an eye-popping $44 billion, even supposing Twitter, which depends on promoting for a lot of its income, has turned a revenue in solely two of the final ten years.

Tech journalist and podcast host Kara Swisher harked again to businessman Victor Kiam promoting Remington electrical shavers: “There was an previous factor, ‘I appreciated the shaver so, I purchased the corporate.'”

Since his takeover, Musk has fired, or accepted resignations from, about two-thirds of Twitter’s employees. “He thinks he can reform it,” Swisher mentioned. “In case you checked out it as a enterprise, you’d need to say, ‘No, no, steer clear of this.’ But it surely’s kind of like shopping for a yacht or a baseball workforce for a wealthy individual. That is fascinating to him.”

Swisher has identified Musk for over 20 years and has interviewed him extensively. These days although, he hasn’t been such a fan of her protection of him.

Since shopping for Twitter, Musk (a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist”) has invited again some customers who had beforehand been banned or in any other case restricted. He is fired staff who’ve tweeted criticisms of him, and he posted (after which deleted) what one commentator referred to as “the most costly tweet ever”: a conspiracy idea about Nancy Pelosi’s husband. Costly as a result of there’s hypothesis that that tweet, and lots of others from Musk, have prompted advertisers to flee Twitter in droves.

“Now he is antagonizing advertisers and calling them ‘woke,'” Swisher advised correspondent Luke Burbank. “Advertisers will promote on Devil, Inc., if it will promote a Fitbit. I imply, actually!”

A documented rise in hate speech since Musk’s takeover got here to a head this previous week after the rapper previously often known as Kanye West tweeted a photograph of a swastika, prompting Musk to droop his account.

Swisher mentioned, “Something that is extra moderated – and I am utilizing phrase ‘moderated,’ not ‘censored’ – tends to do higher with customers, with advertisers, with the complete expertise.”

However Musk thinks Twitter’s prior administration unfairly stifled conservative speech. On Friday, when reporter Matt Taibbi tweeted a trove of inside emails purporting to show Twitter’s “liberal bias,” Musk retweeted the thread approvingly.

Alex Stamos, the previous chief safety officer at Fb, says the Russian hacking of Democratic Nationwide Committee emails in 2016 made Twitter cautious of overseas affect campaigns. “Within the days earlier than the 2020 election, Twitter made the choice to not permit individuals to put up the New York Submit story about Hunter Biden’s laptop computer till they might attempt to determine whether or not or not that was a part of a authorities affect marketing campaign,” he mentioned. “After which they determined, because it was going to get coated, that they need to permit it to be posted. So, they did make a mistake. However the concept it affected the election is simply ludicrous.”

For some, Twitter’s suppression of that article grew to become a First Modification challenge. However Swisher thinks that misses the purpose: “It is gotten sucked up right into a free speech dialog or First Modification dialog, largely by individuals who’ve by no means learn the First Modification. As a result of it is about ‘authorities shall make no legislation.’ That is all it says, of us. And so, corporations definitely can, they usually definitely do.”

And speech on Twitter can have real-world implications. For years, Twitter’s “blue checkmarks” have verified {that a} person is who they are saying they’re. However when Musk began promoting the checkmarks with out precise verification, a slew of imposter accounts sprang up, like one posing as Eli Lilly tweeting out “Insulin is free now,” inflicting the pharmaceutical firm’s inventory worth to tumble. In actual fact, resulting from safety considerations, CBS Information briefly paused its Twitter use two weeks in the past.

One present Twitter worker who spoke to “Sunday Morning” requested that we not establish him, for worry of reprisal from Musk and his on-line followers. 

“He mentioned that he needed to experiment with long-form content material, content material longer than only a tweet,” he mentioned. “That was already launched and was accessible on the platform. And he fired the workforce that had developed it and launched it.”

Burbank requested, “What’s your employment standing with Twitter as of proper now?” 

“I am nonetheless technically an worker, however I am on a suspended standing till January 4th, when they’ll put us on severance, if we signal a severance settlement.”

Like many, this un-named, soon-to-be ex-employee believes Musk is making an attempt to scale back what he owes former Twitter employees, by way of severance and inventory choices. “And to be clear, Elon Musk purchased the corporate. He could make any enterprise resolution he desires to make,” he mentioned. “It is the character by which we had been let go and probably even ways in which broke employment legislation. And it is the hostile and virtually merciless method by which we have been let go by way of no communication, no course.” 

In response to a proposed class-action lawsuit introduced by its staff, Twitter has mentioned in courtroom that allegations it broke U.S. employment legislation are baseless.

Stamos mentioned of Musk, “He is truly a extremely dangerous supervisor, and that is form of stunning to me, how dangerous he’s on the human administration facet of this. The percentages of them having the ability to execute nicely over this subsequent 12 months, I feel, are very lengthy, except he decides to usher in a CEO to calm issues down. And it is clear that is what he’ll need to do at Twitter if they’ll attempt to stabilize and cease the bleeding of all of this expertise that they want to have the ability to execute.”

“Sunday Morning” reached out to Musk, however didn’t obtain a reply. 

Burbank requested Swisher, “How does he strike you as an individual?”

“Oh, it is determined by what day,” she replied. “I generally consider Silicon Valley as a number of good individuals engaged on silly issues, and Elon was engaged on good issues.” 

Issues like Tesla and SpaceX, Musk’s corporations which have arguably revolutionized life on this planet.  

However earlier than all that, in 1998, on “CBS Sunday Morning,” correspondent Rita Braver talked to then-27-year-old Elon Musk, who was working at his first startup, Zip2, a metropolis information on a brand new factor referred to as the web. Musk mentioned, “There is a degree of freedom on the web that actually would not exist anyplace else. And there is not any central controlling entity that will get to resolve, ‘This content material is sweet, this content material is dangerous.'”

Correspondent Rita Braver on the workplaces of Zip2 with Elon Musk, who was its chief engineer and co-founder, in 1998.

CBS Information

However now, Musk is that controlling entity, at the very least relating to Twitter – free to average or to permit the unfold of misinformation as he sees match.

One one who understands Twitter’s energy? That nameless Twitter worker, the one who could quickly be downsized by The World’s Richest Man: “Whether or not it is native to nationwide politics, whether or not it is the dialog round vital cultural occasions or cultural points, whether or not individuals use Twitter or not, their lives are formed by what occurs on Twitter.” 

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Story produced by Anthony Laudato and Robert Marston. Editor: Carol Ross. 

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