After acquiring Twitter for US$44 billion (S$62 billion), Elon Musk began his formal ownership on Thursday (27 Oct) by firing top executives that he had previously accused of misleading him and providing little insight into how he might achieve his laundry list of ambitions.
The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX wants many things from Twitter: defeating the spam bot, turning the social media platform’s algorithm into open source, and relaxing content restrictions.
In his message to Twitter advertisers, he reiterates that he believes Twitter is a “common digital square” whereby a wide range of beliefs can be debated without needing to resort to violence.
Despite wanting to limit censorship, Musk states that he does not want Twitter to become an “echo chamber” or a “free-for-all hellscape”.
It seems contrary, but okay.
Top Executives Fired
The self-dubbed “Chief Twit” has terminated Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Parag Agrawal, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Ned Segal, general counsel Sean Edgett and legal affairs and policy chief Vijaya Gadde.
Previously, he accused them of misleading him and the Twitter investors over the number of fake accounts on the social media platform.
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In fact, sources said that Agrawal and Segal were escorted out of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters after the deal was sealed.
Although this decision may prove destabilising to the now private company, it is not surprising on Elon Musk’s part.
Months prior, Musk had divulged that he “[didn’t] have confidence in [the] management”, and this comment led to swipes between him and Agrawal, both in public and private.
When Agrawal was defending the company’s user metrics in May, Musk replied to the thread with a poop emoji.
In the lawsuit at the Delaware Chancery Court which forced Musk to complete the acquisition deal, it was revealed that the two men had a spat in private.
After Musk asked his followers if Twitter was “dying”, Agrawal had confronted him via text.
The Twitter CEO wrote, “You are free to tweet ‘is twitter dying?’ or anything else about Twitter but it’s my responsibility to tell you that it’s not helping me make Twitter better in the current context.”
In response, Musk retorts, “What did you get done this week?” And then: “I’m not joining the board [sic] this is a waste of time.”
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With regards to legal affairs and policy chief Vijaya Gadde, she oversaw the creation and enforcement of many rules, as well as the tumultuous times of the pandemic misinformation, bullying, and the spike in other kinds of hate speech.
Her Twitter colleagues often describe Gadde’s work as difficult but necessary and unmotivated by political ideology.
Gadde pioneered the flagging of harmful content without removing it, adding warning labels which covered up tweets that broke Twitter’s rules while allowing people to see the content if they wished. After the Capitol Strikes in Washington, she also made the hard decision of banning Donald Trump.
However, in the eyes of Musk, her tactics made her the “chief censor” of the social media platform.
“Twitter obv(iously) has a strong left wing bias,” Elon Musk wrote.
Twitter obv has a strong left wing bias
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 9, 2022
In another tweet that criticised Gadde’s decision to ban Donald Trump, he said, “Truth Social (terrible name) exists because Twitter censored free speech.”
FYI: “Truth Social” was founded by Donald Trump after he was taken off Twitter.
(Don’t download it, it is a cesspit.)
As a result of these decisions, Gadde was at the receiving end of online abuse, which was partially instigated by Elon Musk’s comments.
Regardless of what may become of her policies now that Musk has taken the helm, Gadde was aware that her days at Twitter were numbered as early as April.
Back then, she had called a meeting to inform her staff about this fact, and told employees that she would work to protect their jobs as long as she could, according to a person who attended the meeting.
Therefore, Gadde’s departure from Twitter is not surprising in the slightest.
As for CFO Segal and general counsel Edgett, the reason for their termination was mainly because of the purported misleading information that they gave Musk.
More On The Line
Furthermore, Musk has openly said that he has plans to cut jobs, which is making the 7,500 employees fret for their livelihood.
It does not help that the past six months has been stressful for said employees as they had to follow the whims of the Tesla CEO’s mood, where he oscillated between finishing the acquisition and pulling out completely.
Many have voiced their unhappiness about Musk’s takeover, and question his qualifications to run a social networking site.
As a self-confessed “free speech absolutist”, Musk has already signalled that he will undo the Twitter ban on Trump. This is likely to happen soon.
The loosening of content moderation rules is alarming at the present time, as the midterm elections in the United States approach.
For all that Elon Musk says that he is trying to stop social media from splintering into extreme polarities—as this will cause more hate and divide in our society—the policies he wants to enact paint a grim vision where hate speech goes unpunished and unchecked.
When Elon Musk brought a kitchen sink into Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters, he was not only trying to ‘let it sink in’ for the employees that he is here to stay.
Perhaps he foresaw Twitter sinking like Titanic as well.
Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in! pic.twitter.com/D68z4K2wq7
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 26, 2022
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