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Musk Doubles Down On Account Bans Amid Checkmark Fiasco as Top Execs Continue to Exit in Droves

The daily back-and-forth of Musk’s new dealings are giving people whiplash.

Following a soft rollout of Twitter Blue (which would allow users to pay $7.99 to have a blue checkmark on their accounts), the platform was inundated with verified – but fake – accounts. Celebrities, CEOs, and other high-profile users all tweeted at new CEO with confusion and disapproval of the new verification system. By early Friday morning, the new blue checks had disappeared.

Some fake accounts posing as legitimate businesses, like Lockheed Martin and American Girl, took to the platform to post inappropriate and brow-raising content that confused users who were not sure if the accounts were truly verified or if they were just fake accounts that had purchased the checkmarks.

This follows the new “gray checks” product (a new way to visually verify high-profile users, businesses, and news organizations that is not available for purchase) appearing, disappearing, and then reappearing again.

By Friday morning, Twitter had disabled the ability for users to purchase Twitter Blue subscriptions, per a report. This was done purposely on behalf of Twitter in an effort to curb mal-intended impersonation accounts.

The latter would make sense, according to Musk, who Tweeted early Friday morning that the Twitter hit an all-time high of daily active users (presumably referring to Thursday), though there was no data provided to back the claim up.

There’s also been a revolving door of employees leaving the company post-layoffs, including the rumored exit of brand new VP of Sales, Robin Wheeler.

However, a cryptic message on Wheeler’s Twitter seems to infer that she is still employed at the company.

On Thursday, Musk emailed — at around 2:30 a.m. — employees and said that working remotely would no longer be an option and he was expecting 40+ hour weeks in-office, apart from those with exceptions that Musk must approve.

“Frankly, the economic picture ahead is dire,” Musk wrote. “The road ahead is arduous and will require intense work to succeed.”

Musk’s outlook was bleak, reportedly even telling employees on Thursday that bankruptcy was not out of the question, according to Reuters.

Musk also took to his own account separately to warn that this would not be the last time he and Twitter would be adding and removing new features to the platform.

Musk’s plan to make Twitter a privately-held company officially became real on Tuesday when the social media platform was formally removed from the NYSE.

One high-profile user who was not amused with Musk’s checkmark plan was author Stephen King, for example, an avid Twitter user with 6.9 million followers.

Last week, after weeks of rumors, Musk incited mass layoffs at the company — gutting 50% of the company’s total workforce. In India alone, an estimated 90% of Twitter’s total workforce was slashed, leaving just about one dozen workers left in the country.

Internal messages on Twitter’s internal slack channel revealed that top Twitter security personnel resigned Wednesday evening, prompting “deep concern” from the Federal Trade Commission that the platform will inevitably violate regulatory orders.

By the end of the week, other top executives willingly resigned after the disastrous checkmark rollout and subsequent retraction.

The most notable exits this week include Yoel Roth (Head of Trust and Safety), Robin Wheeler (VP of Sales), Lea Kissner (CISO), Damien Kieran (Chief Privacy Officer) and Marianne Fogarty (Chief Compliance Officer) and Laura Cohen (VP of Marketing.)

One Twitter user, Emily Gorcenski, took to the platform to share a Twitter org chart demonstrating just how many top level executives have left the company amid Musk’s takeover.

At the end of last week, Shennan Lu an employee who was let go (and is six months pregnant) is reportedly suing the company on account of “discrimination,” threatening to take Twitter and Musk to court.

“There is definitely discrimination here. So I will fight. My performance has been tracking ahead (top 30%) for the last quarters, and I know for a fact that other male managers don’t have this rating got stayed,” she wrote on Twitter. “See you in the court.”

Another former employee came forward following Lu’s allegations claiming that he had been fired for helping create and circulate a tool that would help employees save valuable work documents and export them in the event of layoffs.

The software engineer, Emmanuel Cornet, has filed a lawsuit against the company claiming that he was fired the same day he posted the link to the extension into Twitter’s internal slack channel. After he was let go, the link was removed from the messaging system.

Other ex-employees have reportedly been asked to return to work, per Bloomberg, with some former workers alleging they were told they were let go by mistake. Others were told their past work experience will be necessary to move forward with Musk’s master plan for the reinvention of the site.

Still, amid Musk’s questionable leadership decisions, usage and engagement on the social media platform are reportedly growing.

Business Insider reports that downloads of the app are up by 28% month over month from October to November, and up 46% from September to November.

On November 6, just days after Musk’s mass layoff announcement, Twitter churned out 245.4 daily active users, an all-time record for the social media platform that’s been around since 2006.

Musk had already ousted top Twitter execs before last week’s mass layoffs and has loosely put into place a number of his favored colleagues to hold top positions at the company, though its unclear exactly what these positions will shake out to be as the company reaches a permanent structure.

Among those in charge, per the Washington Post, are Jason Calacanis (Musk’s longtime associate who is favored to become CEO), Jared Birchall (Musk’s personal financial adviser), Alex Spiro (a key defense lawyer in several of Musk’s lawsuits who is reportedly now overseeing legal and policy at Twitter under Musk), David Sacks (Musk’s former PayPal colleague), and Sriram Krishnan (crypto investor expert that helped lead a $400 million investment into Musk’s acquisition).

Early in his acquistion, Musk went to war with several verified users who were parodying him, even threatening to ban all accounts that don’t formally disclose that they are parody accounts.

On Friday, Musk told users that “Going forward, accounts engaged in parody must include “parody” in their name, not just in bio” and that “tricking people is not ok.” This sentiment follows Thursday’s disastrous roll out which prompted a number of parody accounts to begin to troll users, even eliciting a strong response from Musk’s rival and fellow billionaire Mark Cuban.

A new report from Platformer this week also claimed that Musk is considering putting all of Twitter behind a paywall, though it has not been confirmed.

Yet it hasn’t stopped major investors from piling money into the billionaire’s contentious takeover.

Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of Binance (the world’s largest crypto exchange), confirmed via Twitter last week that the company had invested $500 million into Musk’s acquisition of the social media platform — in the name of “free speech.”

“As a business, we are helping to increase the freedom of money, and free speech comes before freedom of money, so we need to help maintain free speech,” Zhao said at a web conference in Lisbon.

It was also revealed late last month that Twitter founder and former CEO remains a top investor in the company, after rolling over roughly 18 million shares valued at just under $1 billion at the time of the acquisition.

Musk has been making major changes during his first days as Twitter’s new owner, starting with the dissolving Twitter’s nine-person board on Monday, naming himself sole director of the company.

Later that day, the billionaire responded to a Tweet which linked to a report about the dissolution of the Board saying that decision to do so was only “temporary.”

It remains unclear whether or not he meant that he planned to bring back ousted members or create a new Board with candidates of his choosing.

Musk’s takeover of the company has been full of controversy, prompting a slew of celebrities (notably Shonda Rhimes and Whoopi Goldberg) and executives such as NBC executive producer Ken Olin to leave the platform. General Motors went so far as to suspend on Twitter, citing Musk’s takeover as the primary reason.

“We are engaging with Twitter to understand the direction of the platform under their new ownership,” the company said. “As is normal course of business with a significant change in a media platform, we have temporarily paused our paid advertising. Our customer care interactions on Twitter will continue.”

Musk has continued to remain active on the social media platform following his takeover.

Original story below.

“Let the good times roll.”

That seems to be the vibe of the reportedly new Twitter CEO, Elon Musk, as he starts his first day as owner of the social media platform.

Elon Musk’s long-awaited acquisition of Twitter finally closed on Thursday evening, securing his $44 billion purchase of the social media platform.

On Wednesday, Musk walked into Twitter HQ in Silicon Valley, while carrying a sink.

“Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in!” he wrote in an attempt to be punny.

The billionaire has wasted no time making big decisions and pledging further changes in the wake of his takeover, even taking to the platform himself to declare “The bird is freed,” in reference to Twitter’s logo which has helped the platform earn the moniker, “the bird app.”

On Friday morning, it was reported that Musk had officially taken the title of CEO. If confirmed, Musk is now CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and Twitter.

Here’s what we know so far about Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.

Musk Fires Top Execs

Musk reportedly fired Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and Twitter’s Chief of Policy and Legal Affairs Vijaya Gadde almost immediately upon the finalization of the deal.

Twitter CFO Ned Segal confirmed that he was fired via a lengthy Twitter thread on Friday morning.

Segal did not directly mention Musk or the acquisition in his post.

Per Reuters, Agrawal and Segal were at Twitter HQ in Silicon Valley when the deal was inked — with Musk also inside in the building — and upon dismissal from their roles, were escorted out of the building.

The aggressive move is not surprising as Musk and Agrawal have had a contentious relationship since the early days of Musk’s interest in purchasing the company.

Musk challenged Agrawal to a “public debate” in August about how the company was sourcing its information on how many spam and bot accounts are on the platform.

Still, Twitter execs aren’t walking away empty-handed. Agrawal is reportedly set to receive a payout of $38.7 million, followed by Segal who is set to receive $25.4 million. Gadde will also receive a payout of $12.5 million.

Are Twitter Layoffs on the Horizon?

A report earlier this week by the Washington Post claimed that Musk had plans to lay off a staggering 75% of Twitter employees, roughly 5,600 workers, which would bring the total number of Twitter employees to around 2,000 people by the end of the year. There are currently around 7,500 Twitter employees.

The report cited documents and interviews with people close to the matter, noting that even before Musk’s reported decision to incite mass layoffs, Agrawal and other top leadership had already set in motion plans to cut company payroll by around $800 million by the end of the year. This would cost Twitter an estimated 25% of its total workforce.

However, upon Musk’s entrance into Twitter HQ on Wednesday, he reportedly told employees that the 75% figure was wrong and denied his plans to release such a massive number of employees.

The sources add that the information has not yet been made public and chose to remain anonymous.

A More Personalized, Less-Censored Environment

In an open letter to advertisers on Thursday, Musk shared his motivations for acquiring Twitter and his plans for the future of the platform.

“It is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence,” Musk wrote. “There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far right wing and far left wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society.”

He did clarify that the platform would not become a ruleless “free-for-all hellscape.”

Musk went on to tell potential and current advertisers that he aims to make the Twitter user experience more personalized, by allowing users to choose their own preferences as to what content is surfaced including advertisements that are relevant to their interests and needs.

A War on Spam

The billionaire has been vocal since day one about his distaste for the alleged high number of spam and bot accounts on Twitter, which was his original reason for wanting to back out of the deal in May.

Musk has maintained that Twitter and top execs (including Agrawal) have been dishonest about the number of these fake accounts on the website, something Twitter whistleblower and former head of security Peiter Zatko confirmed in testimony against the company.

Zatko claimed that Twitter did not have a solid security plan in place to protect the platform from spam and bot accounts while also noting that the company was more focused on user growth than removing potentially harmful accounts.

During an interview on the red carpet at the Met Gala in May, Musk doubled down on his distaste for these accounts and his plans to remove them as swiftly as possible.

“I’ve also vowed this publicly that we have to get rid of the bots and trolls and the scams and everything, because that’s obviously diminishing the user experience, and we don’t want people getting tricked out of their money and that kind of thing,” Musk told reporters. “I’m definitely on the warpath, so if somebody’s operating a bot or troll on me then I’m definitely their enemy.”

Musk has not clearly laid out a plan for what exactly he plans to do in order to clear the house of these accounts but the billionaire has made it clear that this will be a priority for him moving forward in his ownership of the company.

Twitter shares were frozen on Friday as the deal between Twitter and Musk closed.

Will Banned Accounts Be Coming Back?

A source according to Bloomberg also said that Musk has plans to remove life bans from users who had been removed from the platform, something that could bring the most contentious of past Twitter users back.

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