Elon Musk and a circle of confidants are tightening control over Twitter

Elon Musk and a circle of confidants are tightening control over Twitter

Elon Musk and a group of his advisers have increased their access to Twitter and met with company executives to work on layoffsOrdering product changes, speaking to advertisers, and reviewing content moderation policies, according to more than a dozen current and former employees involved in the effort.

The priorities for the world’s richest man and his advisors at Twitter are two-fold, five of the people said: They’re working to downsize the company’s ranks while also exploring a range of changes to Twitter’s mobile app.

The timing and size of the layoffs remain fluid for now as lists of the company’s best and weakest employees are finalized, the people said. Musk’s advisers have also hired a team of Twitter engineers to work on his “verification program,” the system that hands out badges to high-profile or notable users to certify the authenticity of their profiles. Twitter could charge users $20 a month to keep their verified status, two people with knowledge of the discussions said.

Mr Musk, 51, flew to New York on Sunday after spending much of the last week at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco, according to a person familiar with his movements and who has a Twitter account following location his private jet. Some of his close associates remain in San Francisco, the people said, among other things David Sacksa venture capitalist and Sriram Krishnana former Twitter product lead and partner at the investment firm Andreessen Horowitz, which invested in Mr. Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.

Other advisors, many of whom were in a “war room” with Mr. Musk at Twitter headquarters last week, include Jared Birchall, the head of Mr. Musk’s family office, Alex Spiro, his personal attorney, and Jason Calacanis, a Tech investor and podcaster, said six people with knowledge of the matter. Mr Musk also brought about 50 engineers, product managers and employees from his other companies, such as electric car maker Tesla, tunneling company The Boring Company and rocket maker SpaceX, to Twitter, four people with knowledge of the matter and internal documents viewed by the New York Times said .

Their actions have sent Twitter’s 7,500 employees into an uproar, with current and former employees exchanging private messages and forming group chats to discuss what’s happening at the company. Some call Mr. Musk’s advisors “Elon’s idiots”. Many worry that they will still have jobs.

Known for being an aggressive manager, Mr. Musk has since quickly set about overhauling Twitter completed the $44 billion acquisition of the company on Thursday. He immediately fired the Chief Executive, the Chief Financial Officer and others. He also said he would Form a content moderation councill to decide which types of posts to keep on Twitter and which to remove, and said he will not immediately reinstate users who have been banned from the platform.

Its changes are not expected to wear off any time soon. Mr Musk, who tweeted $13 billion in debt for the takeover, is under financial pressure turn his business inside out so he can pay the interest — about $1 billion a year — on the debt. It’s going to be a challenge. Twitter hasn’t turned a profit in eight of the past decade, and the broader digital advertising market has been hit by global economic fears.

Mr Musk and Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. Some of Mr Musk’s advisors have tweeted how they are working with the billionaire to help the company make the transition.

Mr. Musk’s work on changing Twitter’s verification program was reported formerly of The Verge. On Monday, Jack Dorsey, a Twitter founder, announced in an application for approval that he had transferred his stake in the social media service to the new company owned by Mr. Musk. Mr. Dorsey’s stake was valued at approximately $1 billion based on Mr. Musk’s purchase price for Twitter.

Last week, Mr Musk and his advisers met with top executives at Twitter headquarters, two people involved in the meetings said. Those managers were asked to explain their teams and how their departments work, people said, including details of how Twitter’s algorithms sort and deliver content, its relationships with key advertisers, and how the advertising platforms work.

Twitter executives involved in the talks said they felt like they were being evaluated for their work. Some slept in the office on Friday and Saturday nights, they said.

Managers were also asked for lists of their teams and the “top performers,” four people involved in the deliberations said, adding that it was a way for Mr Musk and his colleagues to determine who to keep and who to cut. Mr Spiro and Mr Birchall are crunching the numbers and looking closely at layoffs, two people said.

In the event of mass layoffs, Mr. Musk is required under the US Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act to notify the government and employees in advance. Employees have not received any notification, four employees said. A spokeswoman for the San Francisco Bureau of Economic and Human Development said the city had not received any such notice as of Monday.

“There’s a lot of pressure to do it as soon as possible,” Boston College Law School professor Brian JM Quinn said of the job cuts. Mr Musk “has been under pressure to cut costs at Twitter almost from the start. Revenue is obviously declining.”

At least two Twitter employees who publicly criticized Mr. Musk and his acquisition have been fired in the past few days, two people at the company said.

Mr. Musk and his advisors have also been investigating immediate changes to the app to boost revenue. This includes changes to Twitter’s verification program, which was free for approved users. Mr. Musk now wants to charge people $20 a month to maintain their verified status and give them a deadline of Nov. 7 to change or verify team members would face termination, two people with knowledge of the company said efforts. The terms of the new program are still under discussion and may change during product development, they added.

Some employees said the change could have tax implications for Twitter, while others worried about regulatory backlash, two employees said. Known as very important tweeters, some verified users could also be on a list maintained by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), an agency of the Treasury Department that manages and administers international sanctions. It may be illegal for a business to accept money from specific users on such a list.

At least one product change — a change from the logged-out Twitter home page to now display trending topics instead of a login screen — has already been made, which three people say was a test of engineering skills.

On Sunday, Mr. Musk also conducted a poll on Twitter asking if he should bring back Vine, a short video platform the social media company bought and later shut down.

Some current and former employees have set up private Slack groups off Twitter to express their sympathy for one another, four people on the groups said. In one such group, former Twitter employees try to spread “positive” messages as insiders worry about the fate of their employment.

On Monday some workers tweeted dark jokes about refreshing their email inboxes while waiting for the announcement of a layoff.

After a Twitter account following Mr. Musk’s private plane showed Sunday night that it had landed at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, speculation arose among Twitter officials that he would appear at the company’s New York office this week.

“We’re having a very productive day with the marketing and advertising community here in New York,” said Mr. Calacanis, one of Mr. Musk’s advisors. tweeted on Monday. “So many great ideas on how to increase the joy on the platform!”

Lauren Hirsch contributed reporting.

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