Elon Musk, plus a circle of confidantes, tightens control over Twitter

Elon Musk, plus a circle of confidantes, tightens control over Twitter

Elon Musk and a group of his advisers tightened control of Twitter, meeting with company executives to work on layoffsordering product changes, talking 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 advisers at Twitter are twofold, five of the people said: They are working to reduce the company’s ranks while also exploring a series of changes to Twitter’s mobile app.

For now, the timing and scope of the layoffs remain fluid as the company’s top and bottom performers are finalized, the people said. Mr. Musk’s advisers have also assigned a team of Twitter engineers to work on its “verification” program, a system that hands out badges to featured or featured users to confirm the authenticity of their profiles. Twitter could charge users $20 a month to keep their verified status, two people with knowledge of the discussion said.

Mr. Musk, 51, flew to New York on Sunday after spending much of the past week at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco, according to a person familiar with his movements and the Twitter account he follows. location his private plane. Some of his trusted confidantes remain in San Francisco, the people said, including David Sacksventure capitalist, i Sriram Krishnanformer product leader at Twitter and partner at investment firm Andreessen Horowitz, which invested in the purchase of Twitter by Mr. Muska.

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

Their actions have thrown Twitter’s 7,500 employees into turmoil, with current and former employees exchanging private messages and forming group chats to discuss what’s going on at the company. Some call Mr. Musk’s advisers “Elon jerks.” Many are worried about whether they will still have a job.

Mr. Musk, who has a reputation as an aggressive manager, has rapidly overhauled Twitter since completed a $44 billion buyout company on Thursday. He immediately fired the company’s CEO, CFO and others. He also said that he would form a content moderation councill to decide what types of posts to keep on Twitter and what to remove, and said it would not immediately reinstate users banned from the platform.

His changes are not expected to subside anytime soon. Mr. Musk, who posted a $13 billion debt buyout on Twitter, is facing financial pressure to turn his business around so he could pay the interest — about $1 billion a year — on the debt. It will be a challenge. Twitter hasn’t turned a profit in eight of the past 10 years, 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 advisers tweeted that they were working with the billionaire to help the company make the transition.

Mr. Musk has been working to change Twitter’s verification program registered earlier by The Verge.

At Twitter headquarters last week, Mr. Musk and his advisers met with top managers, two people involved in the meetings said. Those managers were asked to explain their teams and what their departments did, the people said, including details of how Twitter’s algorithms sort and serve content, relationships with key advertisers and how ad platforms work.

Twitter managers involved in the talks said they felt like they were being judged 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 “top performers,” said four people involved in the deliberations, adding that it was a way for Mr. Musk and his colleagues determine who to keep and who to cut. Mr. Spiro and Mr. Birchall is crunching the numbers and looking closely at layoffs, two of the people said.

In case of mass layoffs, Mr. Musk is required by the US Worker Readjustment and Retraining Notification Act to notify the government and employees in advance. The employees did not receive any notification, said four employees. A spokeswoman for San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development said the city had received no such notification as of Monday.

“There’s a lot of pressure to do it as quickly as possible,” Brian JM Quinn, a professor at Boston College Law School, said of the job cuts. Mr. Musk “has been under pressure almost from the start to cut costs at Twitter. Revenues are clearly on the decline.”

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

Mr. Musk and his advisers also explored 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 keep their verified status and set a Nov. 7 deadline for the change or face firing people on the verification team, two people with knowledge of the effort said. The terms of the new program are still under discussion and could 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. Some verified users known to be very important tweeters may also be on a list maintained by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, which is the Treasury Department agency that manages and administers international sanctions. It may be illegal for a company to receive money from certain users on such a list.

At least one product change — a change to Twitter’s logged-out homepage that now displays trending topics instead of a login screen — has already been made, in what three people said was a test of the engineers’ mettle.

Mr. Musk also ran a Twitter poll on Sunday calling for him to “bring back Vine,” the short-form video platform that the social media company bought and later shut down.

Some current and former employees have created private Slack groups outside of Twitter to commiserate with each other, four people who are in the groups said. In one such group, ex-Twitter employees are trying to spread “positive” messages while insiders worry about the fate of their jobs.

On Monday, some workers tweeted dark jokes about refreshing their email inboxes while they waited for the layoff announcement.

On Sunday night, after a Twitter account tracking Mr. Musk’s private jet showed it had landed at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, there was speculation among Twitter employees that he would appear at the company’s New York office this week.

“We have a very productive day meeting with the marketing and advertising community here in New York,” Mr. Calacanis, one of the advisors of Mr. Muska, tweeted At Monday. “So many great ideas to increase joy on the platform!”

Lauren Hirsch contributed to the reporting.

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