Twitter, and democracy, is on life support
It took a petulant billionaire less than a week to decimate our digital town square. One of the most consequential U.S. elections in recent history is just days away. What happened? What now?
There’s a lot to unpack about Twitter’s implosion under Elon Musk. This is the first part in a short series that explains how Twitter’s devolution poses a threat to American democracy. The bottom line is this: Musk chose to decimate Twitter’s workforce and launch a pay-to-play version of Twitter’s Verified program on the eve of a U.S. general election. We don’t have time to figure out why. The only thing we should be doing right now is getting out the vote.
TL; DR: Elon Musk chose to layoff thousands of mission-critical employees as quickly as possible knowing that it would cost him more financially than if he simply followed the law. He’s publicly appealing to extremists on the platform and empowering them to sow chaos ahead of Tuesday’s election.
Incompetent or intentional? Yes.
Some argue that Elon Musk’s actions at Twitter reflect his inexperience— that he’s bitten off more than he can chew. While there’s truth to such arguments, they miss the salient point: there are very compelling business arguments against the timing of Musk’s layoffs— and he knows this.
Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company, Tesla, has been a large employer in California for over a decade, he knows full-well that it’s against the law to lay off nearly 1000 employees literally overnight.
Musk knew he was inviting litigation, but he did it anyway. As of this writing, there are several lawsuits in the works, including a class action filed in federal court.
Musk knew that chaos would scare away advertisers, but he did it anyway. As of this writing, several major brands have paused their advertising on Twitter. The message from companies to Elon Musk has been crystal clear: the pause is due to “the uncertain future of Twitter’s ability to moderate harmful content and guarantee brand safety for advertisers.”
Musk knows that chaos is bad for business. Just yesterday, Musk acknowledged, “a massive drop in revenue” while blaming “activist groups” in a misleading, thinly-veiled appeal to the very same far-right extremism that advertisers have deemed incompatible with their brands.
Musk knows that issuing Twitter Verified badges to anyone willing to pay $8/month would fuel chaos on the platform. He knows this because several Twitter Verified users illustrated that exact point to Elon Musk himself:
Suffice it to say that Musk did not take kindly to the demonstration. Several accounts were temporarily restricted as a direct result of their digital disobedience. At least one such account remains in limbo as of this writing:
Also as of this writing: an updated version of Twitter’s iOS app is rolling out via Apple’s App Store in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Musk knows he’s creating chaos on the eve of a general election. He knows that it’s bad for business. He’s doing it anyway.
Musk knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s taken our digital town square and transformed it into a playground for bad actors seeking to undermine American democracy— just in time for one of the most consequential U.S. general elections in recent history. The very fate of American democracy hangs in the balance.
UPDATE on 2022-11-06 at 3:05 PT:
Four hours ago, Bloomberg news reported that Twitter management is reaching out to dozens of employees who were laid off, and asking them to return:
“Some of those who are being asked to return were laid off by mistake, according to two people familiar with the moves. Others were let go before management realized that their work and experience may be necessary to build the new features Musk envisions, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information.”
Up next: The real story is about who, not how many, were laid off
On Thursday morning, I spoke with a Twitter employee on the team that is responsible for fighting misinformation on the platform— their entire time was laid off without notice by the end of the day.
I honestly thing the destruction of Twitter is going how it’s designed to.
Who are Musk’s main financial backers?
Saudi & Qatar who both will benefit if the man on the ground view to the world of their Human rights abuses is closed down.
You can’t sports wash your kingdom clean if people are tweeting about you chopping up journalists & murdering dissidents.