Twitter-Musk News Timeline: #RIPTwitter Trends After Employees Resign
Twitter’s new owner and CEO, Elon Musk, has been making dramatic changes since he finalized a deal to buy the company for about $44 billion on Oct. 27. After laying off half the staff, he gave remaining employees an ultimatum to pledge working under his new hard-charging culture or get out. Many, it seems, decided to leave.
Twitter’s saga with Musk, who also runs automaker Tesla and aerospace company SpaceX, was chaotic even before he took control. He signed a deal in April to acquire the company but then attempted to back out of it, leading Twitter to sue him. After months of pretrial skirmishes, Musk closed the acquisition right before a court-ordered deadline.
Here’s the most recent news about Musk’s takeover of Twitter:
Nov. 17: Twitter users fear the platform’s end is near. Musk locks office doors, many employees take severance offers, senators want FTC investigation
Twitter users started tweeting farewell remarks as #RIPTwitter trended on the platform in the US and other parts of the world.
Fears about a potential collapse of the site came after hundreds of employees decided to leave the company earlier in the day. One former Twitter employee told The Washington Post that there’s no longer “a skeleton crew manning the system.” “It will continue to coast until it runs into something, and then it will stop,” the employee said. Musk tweeted a meme with Twitter’s logo on a grave stone.
The remaining 3,500 or so employees left at Twitter had a choice to make at the end of the day on Nov. 17: Join Musk’s hard-charging new “Twitter 2.0,” complete with minimum-40-hour workweeks and many other grueling changes, or leave with three months of severance.
Up to 75% of remaining employees reportedly went for the exits, according to Fortune and Bloomberg, creating confusion about how many remaining people would have access to the offices. including what the Verge said were some “legendary” engineers and coders.
Around the same time, the company reportedly locked the doors to its San Francisco headquarters until Nov. 21, according to the tech newsletter Platformer. Twitter, which no longer appears to have a PR department, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
All of this occurred after Musk softened his stance on how he wanted to run the new Twitter, at least somewhat. An email sent to Twitter employees on Nov. 9 said remote work would be banned, but a message emailed to employees on Nov. 17 had Musk saying remote work can be available if approved, according to a report from Bloomberg.
“All that is required for approval is that your manager takes responsibility for ensuring that you are making an excellent contribution,” Musk said in the email. He also wanted employees to have in-person team meetings at least once a month.
Twitter is also facing more scrutiny from US lawmakers. A group of Democratic senators sent a letter to Lina Khan, the chairwoman of the US Federal Trade Commission. Outlined in the letter are what the legislators described as “alarming steps” taken by Musk including new features that have been used for scams, an increase in hate speech and the removal of cybersecurity executives within the company, potentially putting users’ personal data at risk. The senators point out that this action could mean the company is in violation of the FTC’s consent decree to protect this data as part of a settlement with the commission in 2011.
“We urge the Commission to vigorously oversee its consent decree with Twitter and to bring enforcement actions against any breaches or business practices that are unfair or deceptive, including bringing civil penalties and imposing liability on individual Twitter executives where appropriate,” the senators said.
Among the seven Democratic senators are Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey.
Twitter violated the consent decree back in May when the FTC found the company used security data like phone numbers and email addresses to target advertising at users. This led to a $150 million settlement paid by Twitter.
Musk appeared to end the day poking fun at his earlier warning Twitter may go bankrupt.
Twitter didn’t respond to an earlier request for comment either.
Nov. 16: Musk demands ‘hardcore’ work culture. Dorsey’s ‘nope’
Musk emailed all staff to outline his vision for “Twitter 2.0,” which will require an “extremely hardcore” culture, with long hours and high intensity, according to Pragmatic Engineer writer (and former Uber engineer) Gergely Orosz. Employees must agree to this on Thursday or leave with three months of severance pay.
During testimony Wednesday over a Tesla shareholder case alleging that his salary as CEO is excessive, Musk also reportedly told the court that he does not want to be CEO of Tesla, and that his chief executive leadership of Twitter is a temporary arrangement.
“I expect to reduce my time at Twitter and find somebody else to run Twitter over time,” he said, according to CNBC.
Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment.
When a follower asked Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey if he’d consider returning as CEO, Dorsey responded with a firm “nope.” There’s no indication that he got an offer to return — the follower’s query came after Dorsey engaged in conversation about Twitter’s future and expressed confidence that the site would survive. His previous tenure as CEO ended in May 2021, and he left its board of directors in May 2022.
Nov. 15: Workers fired for speaking about Musk on Slack
Employees who criticized Elon Musk in Twitter’s Slack channels were fired overnight via email, Platformer’s Casey Newton said a tweet. They were apparently told their “recent behavior has violated company policy.” It’s unclear how many people were affected.
Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Nov. 14: Musk wants greater Twitter video support
Speaking via video link, Musk told business leaders during the G20 summit in Bali that he wants to see Twitter support more longer-form video to bring in more content creators. He also noted that he’s been working “at the absolute most amount … from morning til night, seven days a week” since the acquisition.
Nov. 13: SpaceX reportedly buys major Twitter ad package
SpaceX, Musk’s aerospace company, ordered a Twitter “takeover” advertising package for its satellite internet service Starlink, CNBC reported. This will seemingly promote the service on people’s Twitter timelines in Spain and Australia and can cost more than $250,000. It comes after some advertisers paused campaigns due to the upheaval at Twitter.
SpaceX didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Nov. 12: Thousands of contract employees seemingly terminated
Twitter cut thousands of contract employees, according to Platformer’s Casey Newton, Axios and CNBC, with Newton reporting that around 4,400 of Twitter’s roughly 5,500 contractors were affected. Most didn’t get any notice and found out because they lost access to the company’s email and internal communications systems, Newton reported.
The company didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Nov. 11: Twitter Blue subscription option vanishes
The option to sign up for the $8 a month subscription service Twitter Blue is no longer available on Twitter’s iOS app, as earlier reported by The Verge. The shift comes days after the service launched for Apple devices and prior to its Android launch. Attempting to subscribe on desktop directs you to the iOS app.
CNET can confirm that this manifests in two distinct ways: the option to subscribe has vanished from the sidebar, and tapping the link gives you an error message.
“Thank you for your interest!” it reads. “Twitter Blue will be available in your country in the future. Please check back later.”
It’s unclear why the company paused signups for the service, but a large number of users reportedly bought verification to impersonate brands and celebrities. An internal note posted on its Slack said it stopped people from subscribing “to help address impersonation issues,” according to tech outlet Platformer’s Zoë Schiffer.
Twitter didn’t respond to CNET’s request for comment.
Nov. 10: Musk bans remote work and warns of bankruptcy, attorney says he’s risking billions in FTC fines
Musk sent his first emails to employees on Nov. 9, warning that “the economic picture ahead is dire.” He banned remote work unless he personally approved it, according to Bloomberg, while The New York Times reported that he told workers “the absolute top priority is finding and suspending any verified bots/trolls/spam.”
An attorney on Twitter’s privacy team posted a message in the company’s Slack warning that Musk’s focus on monetizing its users is making him take dangerous steps, The Verge reported. It’s apparently at particular risk of incurring billions in fines from the Federal Trade Commission in the wake of a May settlement regarding the use of personal info to target ads.
Twitter’s chief privacy officer, Damien Kieran; Chief Information Security Officer Lea Kissner; and Chief Compliance Officer Marianne Fogarty all resigned, The Verge noted. Kissner’s departure confirmed her departure in a tweet.
Musk also reportedly told employees bankruptcy was a possibility, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. Two more Twitter executives — Yoel Roth, the company’s head of trust and safety, and Robin Wheeler, who led marketing and sales at Twitter — also resigned, according to the report. Wheeler then decided to stay at the company after Musk persuaded her to do so, Bloomberg reported. Roth, Wheeler and Musk’s lawyer Alex Spiro didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Nov. 9: Musk tries to reassure advertisers amid confusion about check marks
Twitter’s rollout of a new verification system is messy. Twitter started adding gray check marks and an “official” label to high-profile Twitter accounts but then scrapped some of the changes hours later.
In an hour-long live audio chat on Twitter later in the day, Musk said the new labels are an “aesthetic nightmare when looking at the Twitter feed” and “another way of creating a two-class system.”
Esther Crawford, who oversees early-stage products at Twitter, tweeted that the company would still be rolling out the “official” label but to government and commercial entities first. Twitter also started allowing people to add blue check marks to their profiles if they pay $8 a month for a Twitter Blue subscription. Scammers are already using the new system to create fake accounts. Twitter said it would suspend accounts engaged in deceptive tactics and impersonation.
In the audio chat, Musk discussed Twitter’s plans for a content moderation council and decisions by companies to temporarily pause their advertising campaigns on Twitter.
“I don’t think having hate speech next to an ad is great. Obviously,” he said. Musk also said he thinks it will take Twitter a couple of months to create a content moderation council.
He signaled, though, that he isn’t planning to slow down when it comes to changing Twitter.
“The rate of evolution of Twitter will be an immense step change compared to what it has been in the past,” he said. “You know, if nothing else, I am a technologist and I can make technology go fast.”
Nov. 6: Paid check marks may be pushed back, Musk cracks down on impersonation
Paid verification reportedly delayed until after election
Twitter is postponing the rollout of verification badges connected to an $8 monthly subscription service until after the midterm elections, according to The New York Times.
Impersonators get the boot
Musk warned that any Twitter account engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying that it’s parody would get hit with a permanent ban. In reaction, some users changed their names to “Elon Musk,” which led to their suspension.
Nov. 5: Paying for check marks, hearing from Dorsey
Pay-for-verification plan shows up in iOS update
Version notes for the latest iteration of Twitter’s app for the Apple iPhone showed up in the App Store, with a What’s New section that pointed to the verification feature. The notes tell users that “starting today” if you “sign up now” for an $8-a-month Twitter Blue subscription, “your account will get a blue checkmark, just like the celebrities, companies, and politicians you already follow.” It appears, though, that the program hasn’t actually kicked in yet. Read more here.
Dorsey weighs in
With news reports saying Twitter had laid off about half its staff, co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey took to the service to offer words of encouragement and to place blame on himself.
“I own the responsibility for why everyone is in this situation: I grew the company size too quickly. I apologize for that,” Dorsey tweeted. He also called Twitter staffers past and present “resilient” and said, “I am grateful for, and love, everyone who has ever worked on Twitter. I don’t expect that to be mutual in this moment.”
In April, Dorsey expressed his support of Musk taking over the company, but he also said that in principle, he thought no one should own or run Twitter and that it should instead be “a public good.”
Nov. 4: Musk says Twitter has had ‘massive drop’ in revenue
Since Musk’s takeover, several major advertisers, such as Tesla rival General Motors, food company General Mills and pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer, have temporarily paused their ad campaigns on Twitter. Musk tweeted that Twitter has had a “massive drop” in revenue, which he blamed on activist groups pressuring advertisers. Musk didn’t say in his tweet how much Twitter’s revenue has fallen, nor did he identify the activists. In the tweet, Musk also said Twitter hasn’t changed its content moderation policies.
Musk also made an appearance at the Baron Investment Conference, where he noted that Twitter grappled with revenue challenges before the acquisition and that he tried to get out of the deal.
His remarks came after Twitter started laying off employees. Musk later tweeted that there was “no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day.” Without specifying how many people were laid off or what percentage of the workforce, Musk added they were “offered 3 months of severance.” Reportedly, about half of Twitter’s 7,500-person work force was laid off.
Civil rights groups that met with Musk spoke out about the layoffs.
“For starters, there’s no way to keep election integrity in place if you are cutting capacity to do the monitoring in #TwitterLayoffs,” tweeted Rashad Robinson, president of racial justice group Color of Change. The group is part of #StopToxicTwitter, a coalition of more than 60 organizations that are urging major advertisers to pause spending and invest in content moderation. Partners listed on the coalition’s website include the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Public Citizen, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The Volkswagen Group and others reportedly paused ad spending because of concerns that ads could appear alongside problematic content on the platform.
Nov. 3: Musk looks for ways to cut costs, lawsuit filed
Musk wants to cut costs and make Twitter less dependent on advertising.
Reuters, citing two sources familiar with the matter and an internal Slack message, reported that Musk directed Twitter’s team to find more than $1 billion in infrastructure cost savings.
The company is looking at other ways to make money outside of advertising, including “paywalled” videos and paid direct messages, The New York Times reported, citing two people with knowledge of the matter and internal documents.
Musk is already making changes to Twitter’s work culture. Bloomberg reported that Musk has removed “days of rest” from Twitter’s employee calendars and plans to cancel the company’s remote work policy. Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Twitter reportedly told employees in an email that layoffs would happen. A lawsuit seeking class action status, accused Twitter of violating the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires large companies to give least 60 days of advance notice before mass layoffs, as previously reported by Bloomberg.
Nov. 2: Musk reportedly plans to cut half of Twitter’s workforce
Musk plans to cut about 3,700 jobs at Twitter, or half of the social media company’s workforce, Bloomberg reported. Affected staffers are to be informed of their fate by Nov. 4, sources told the news outlet.
Musk also plans to reverse the company’s existing work-from-anywhere policy, requiring remaining employees to report to an office, the unidentified sources said.
In one scenario for reducing Twitter’s workforce being considered, laid off workers will be offered 60 days’ worth of severance pay. Twitter users have been bracing for layoffs since Musk announced his bid for Twitter in April. One report indicated that Musk planned to cut 75% of jobs at Twitter.
Nov. 1: Musk suggests charging for verification
In a series of tweets, Musk floated the idea that Twitter charge $8 per month for a verified blue check mark as part of its subscription plan. The company’s subscription service, known as Twitter Blue, currently costs $5 per month but doesn’t include verification as a perk.
Twitter currently doesn’t charge to verify accounts with a blue check mark, and the badge is supposed to be given out to accounts that the company determines are “notable, authentic and active.” The blue check mark is meant to help users determine if an account of a celebrity, journalist or other public figure is fake or not.
Musk tweeted that the price would be adjusted by country and that the subscription would include “priority in replies, mentions & search, which is essential to defeat spam/scam,” as well as the “ability to post long video & audio.” He also said users would see “half as many ads.”
Earlier in the day, The Wall Street Journal reported that Twitter Blue subscribers will lose access to ad-free articles from publishers like Vox, the Los Angeles Times and Insider. There have been various reports of different prices for a Twitter Blue subscription, with the company also reportedly having considered increasing the subscription price to $20 a month.
It’s unclear from Musk’s tweets if verified users would have to pay for a subscription or lose their blue check mark. Musk tweeted there would be “a secondary tag” for public figures, like the one now used for politicians.
The company’s chief customer officer, Sarah Personette, also revealed in a tweet that she resigned.
Meanwhile, Twitter said it has removed 1,500 accounts since Oct. 29 for posting hateful content.
Oct. 31: Official CEO, board dissolved, layoff plans, no Trump decision yet, content moderation limited
Days after naming himself “Chief Twit” on his Twitter profile, Musk confirmed he’s the company’s CEO through a securities filing. Other changes to Twitter’s leadership are also underway. A related securities filing shows Twitter’s board of directors was dissolved the day Musk took over and identified Musk as the “sole director” of the company.
He also reportedly plans to lay off 25% of Twitter’s workforce, The Washington Post reported, citing anonymous sources.
Musk, who has previously said he would reverse former US President Donald Trump’s permanent ban from Twitter, is still getting questions about whether he’ll follow through on that. Twitter booted Trump from its platform in 2021 following the deadly US Capitol Hill riot because of concerns that his remarks could incite more violence.
“If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if Trump is coming back on this platform, Twitter would be minting money!” Musk tweeted.
Twitter also limited some Trust and Safety employee access to internal tools, Bloomberg reported, curbing their ability to moderate content and address misinformation ahead of next week’s US elections. They can apparently still edit or remove posts that could result in real-world harm.
“This is exactly what we (or any company) should be doing in the midst of a corporate transition to reduce opportunities for insider risk. We’re still enforcing our rules at scale,” Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, tweeted in response to Bloomberg’s story.
Oct. 30: Musk toys with checkmark changes and Vine revival, tweets misinformation
Musk has been busy suggesting changes to Twitter. He tweeted a poll about whether Twitter should bring back Vine, a short-form video app that Twitter shut down in 2017.
Twitter also reportedly plans to charge $20 per month for its Twitter Blue subscription service, and verified users would lose their blue checkmark if they don’t do so in 90 days, The Verge reported, citing anonymous sources. Platformer’s Casey Newton reported that Twitter is thinking about charging $5 a month to verified users if they want to keep their blue checkmarks.
Musk also tweeted and then deleted a link to an article with a baseless conspiracy theory about last week’s attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in San Francisco. The article came from a website called the Santa Monica Observer. Fact-checking website Media Bias/Fact Check noted the outlet publishes right-wing misinformation.
Oct. 29: Twitter battles a surge in racist slurs
Twitter is trying to combat anonymous accounts that started to tweet racist slurs hours after Musk took over Twitter.
Twitter head of safety and integrity Yoel Roth tweeted that the company has “seen a small number of accounts post a ton of tweets that include slurs and other derogatory terms.” He added that “more than 50,000 tweets repeatedly using a particular slur came from just 300 accounts.”
“Bottom line up front: Twitter’s policies haven’t changed. Hateful conduct has no place here. And we’re taking steps to put a stop to an organized effort to make people think we have,” he tweeted.
Oct. 28: Twitter to form content moderation council
Advocacy groups have raised concerns that Musk’s control over Twitter would allow more hate speech and misinformation to surface on the platform. Musk has vowed publicly he doesn’t want Twitter to become a “free-for-all hellscape” but has also said that he’s “against censorship that goes far beyond the law.”
Musk said the company would form a content moderation council with “widely diverse viewpoints.” The company won’t make any major content decisions or account reinstatements before the council convenes, he tweeted.
A securities filing on Oct. 28 also noted that Twitter’s stock is being delisted on the New York Stock Exchange. Twitter, a publicly traded company, became a private one.
Oct. 27: Musk takes over Twitter, fires executives
Musk became Twitter’s new owner and reportedly fired key executives at the company, including Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal and Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal policy, trust and safety.
Earlier in the day, Musk tweeted a letter to advertisers. The billionaire, who once tweeted that he hated advertising, now posted that “advertising, when done right, can delight, entertain and inform you.”
Musk met with employees throughout the week, carried a sink into Twitter’s headquarters as a photo op and changed his profile to “Chief Twit” before news broke that the deal had been completed.
CNET staff contributed to this report.