The Twitter Crisis and the Status of Musk and the Twitter Employees: How he and his Team Were Preceded the Blue Launch of Twitter
The last time Musk addressed all of Twitter’s employees was in June, when he said he wanted the app to become more like WeChat and TikTok. He stated that the deal was back on several weeks ago and that it was going to be used to create X, the everything app.
Many Twitter employees recently pointed out the absence of Parag Argawal, their current CEO, who had soured on Musk after the two initially started talking about Musk joining the board. “He has been completely absent for weeks,” one current Twitter employee, who requested anonymity to speak without the company’s permission, said of Argawal. “He has ghosted us,” said another. Both Twitter’s Slack and the Twitter employee-only section of Blind, an anonymous message board for tech workers, are full of similar comments about Argawal, according to screenshots seen by The Verge.
As with the list of product recommendations prepared by trust and safety for the Blue rollout, advertisers appear to have a better understanding of what Twitter needs than Musk does. Massive cuts to the content moderation team, a paralyzing code freeze, and open hostility between the “goons” and the pre-Musk Tweeps have created a company that continues to court a larger crisis.
Musk began to realize that the significance of this began to register with him as he stated that satirical accounts must now include parody in their names and bio. But if any of the fallout had come as a shock to Musk and his team, they can’t say they weren’t warned.
A seven-page list of recommendations was made by the trust and safety team days before the launch to help avoid some of the consequences of Musk’s plans for Blue. The document, which was obtained by Platformer, predicts with eerie accuracy some of the events that follow.
The first recommendation that the team labeled P0 to denote a concern in the highest risk category was that of the motivated scammers/bad actors who could be willing to pay.
The team found that impersonation of high profile individuals was a P0 risk. “Legacy verification provides a critical signal in enforcing impersonation rules, the loss of which is likely to lead to an increase in impersonation of high-profile accounts on Twitter.”
The Musk Ignorability of Social Media” warnings on Twitter about the sexual abuse of children in a popular social networking site
On November 1st, when the document was circulated internally, Musk was considering a $99-a-year annual subscription for Blue; only later, after an exchange online with writer Stephen King, did he lower the cost. The move made fun of brands and government officials more likely to cause scam, as the desire to make fun of brands became an impulse buy.
The team noted that removing the verified badge and other privileges from high-profile users without paying would be detrimental to their reputation on the platform. Privileges and exemptions from legacy verified accounts could cause confusion and lost trust, they wrote. “We use the health-related protections … to manage against the risk of false-positive actions on high-profile users, under the assumption that the accounts have been heavily vetted. We have the risk of false positives and loss of privileges if the signal is no longer valid.
The company’s trust and safety team did win support for some solutions, including retaining verification for some high-profile accounts using the “official badge.”
For the most part, though, the document offers a wish list for features that would make the product safer and easier to use, most of which have not been approved.
Despite the warnings, the launch proceeded as planned. The trust and safety team made good on their predictions, which meant that Musk halted the rollout a few days later.
An employee wondered when people would realize the value of people that worked here.
Functions affected included content moderation, recruiting, ad sales, marketing, and real estate, among others. At the moment, it’s unclear how the loss of what may have been thousands of moderators will affect the service. But it seems clear that Twitter now has dramatically fewer people available to police the site for harmful material.
One manager at the company noted that one of their contractors had just been deactivation without notice while the company made some critical changes to their child safety workflows. This is particularly worrisome because Twitter has for years struggled to adequately police child sexual exploitation material on the platform, as we previously reported.
How a Goon Meets Musk: The Long and Hard Night of the Musk-Omega-Failed Order on Twitter and on Slack
Over the course of the day, similar messages trickled in on Blind, an app for coworkers to anonymously discuss their workplaces, and on external Slacks that employees have established to have more candid discussions.
Several workers said they had learned about their employment status after seeing our tweets, attempting to log in to Gmail and Slack, and finding that they no longer had access.
The employees told us that they’ve been bracing for cuts ever since the layoffs. But the abrupt nature of the cuts will likely send many former contractors scrambling: as Platformer was first to report, vendors told them via email their medical benefits would end today, their final day of employment.
The most hostile and degrading workplace I have ever known has gone from being the most welcoming and healthy workplace to the most hostile and degrading in 2 weeks.
Employees show a lot of support for one another. But not to the coterie of volunteer venture capitalists and on-loan engineers from Tesla and the Boring Company that have been carrying out Musk’s orders: those they refer to universally, including on Slack, as “the goons.”
On Monday morning, at around 1:45 AM, Twitter engineers were called into an emergency meeting. A new order had just come down from Musk: freeze all production changes on Twitter systems, effective immediately.
This time, however, engineers were told they couldn’t even write any code — “until further notice,” according to an internal email obtained by Platformer. Exceptions will be granted if there is an “urgent change that is needed to resolve an issue with a production service, including any changes reflecting hard promised deadlines for clients,” the email said, and employees get “approval from VP level and Elon explicitly stating that the change needs to be made.”
On Slack, even engineers who attended the late-night meeting were confused. “Is there a ticket I can reference?” An engineer was tasked with implementing the freeze. I do not see any context. “We don’t have much context as of now,” a colleague responded. “But this is coming from Elon’s team.”
An engineer pushed back against Musk, and gave a detailed thread about why the site loads more slowly in some places than others. Musk fired him by the end of the day, Bloomberg reported, along with a second engineer who commented on the affair: “As the former tech lead for timelines infrastructure at Twitter, I can confidently say that this man has no idea wtf he’s talking about.”
Why is Twitter so lurched? The Indian experience with low power phones, and why did Twitter shut down after the Blue rollout?
In India, the experience is not great. That’s because the payload gets delivered from further away (laws of physics come into effect) and that back-and-forth data transfer between the phone and the data center starts compounding.
Not to mention that places like India have a higher concentration of low power phones that tend to perform worse in general — as opposed to all of our overpowered iPhones and such.
Why is the code frozen? No one knows for sure, but some are speculating that Musk has grown paranoid that some disgruntled engineers may intend to sabotage the site on their way out.
On Friday, after the disaster of the Blue rollout, Eli Lilly paused all its ad campaigns on Twitter. The move potentially cost Twitter millions of dollars in revenue, according to the Washington Post. (A “verified” fake account impersonating Eli Lilly had said insulin would now be free, and it took Twitter six hours to remove the tweet.)
The pharmaceutical giant is one of many large companies pulling ad dollars from Twitter in recent days. Several companies including Volkswagen and Pfizer have stopped their campaigns, and large advertising agencies are telling their clients to do the same.
The news has left Twitter’s ad teams — particularly those responsible for managing ad agency relationships — in a lurch, according to internal screenshots and conversations with current employees.
“I know that many of your markets and clients are seeing large declines in Q4 and in particular L7D,” wrote Twitter’s global business lead in Slack. “Please add any commentary, questions, issues in this thread and I’ll endeavor to raise as many as possible TY!”
General GM asked to stop campaigns according to another employee of the micro-blogging site. “The initial reason they gave is elections, but it looks like an open-ended pause, because the team requested to meet next week to help them make a case to global on why they shouldn’t.” After that, the same employee said that there would be a pause until the end of the year. The reason now is brand safety.”
GroupM, the largest media-buying agency in the world, with $60 billion in annual media spend, told its clients that Twitter was a high-risk media buy, according to Digiday and an email obtained by Platformer. The situation in the agency partnerships lead is a result of senior departures in key operational areas. They understand that we have policies in place, but they don’t feel that it’s safe for us at the moment.
–Demonstrated commitment of effective content moderation, enforcing current Twitter Rules (e.g. account impersonation, violative content removal timing, intolerance of hate speech and misinformation)
Twitter Insider Reports: Musk’s Takeover of Twitter after a Second Wave of Layoffs and Implications for the Company’s Future
Mid-afternoon on Monday, after Musk announced he would begin disconnecting up to 80 percent of unspecified microservices, some users said two-factor authentication temporarily stopped working via SMS. Some people reported that they were unable to download their archives due to partial site outages.
There are people who know how to fix all those things, but they either no longer work for the company or have been told not to ship any new code. Engineers were haunted at the end of the day by the question of how many cracks in the service would emerge.
After another wave of layoffs, Esther Crawford has lost her job at the company. Crawford headed up various projects at Twitter, including the company’s Blue with verification subscription as well as Twitter’s forthcoming payments platform.
Crawford “began angling for a bigger role” shortly after Musk’s takeover, as documented in this inside look at Twitter from Schiffer, Casey Newton, and Alex Heath. She commented thatdrastic cuts were going to be required to survive, no matter who owned the company, and she also said that Musk had slashed the company’s workforce.