Given the flood of media coverage and the ongoing firestorm of debates, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been four days since Elon Musk strolled into Twitter headquarters carrying a kitchen sink and began purging the old guard from the premises. But as the ultrawealthy entrepreneur has shown us, a lot can happen in four days. The company’s CEO and chief legal censorship engineers were quickly shown the door, with many others expected to follow. Programmers who control the social media platform’s algorithms have been removed or reassigned. But Twitter can’t just run on autopilot forever, right? So who is coming in to replace all of those people? As it turns out, Musk is bringing in his own team of programmers and developers from his other companies. Personnel from Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and even the Boring Company (the group that sold me my flamethrower) are now working on the guts of the Twitter machine. And progressives around the nation are simply enraged. (CNBC)
Musk, who is CEO of automaker Tesla and re-usable rocket maker SpaceX, completed the $44 billion acquisition of Twitter on Oct. 28 and made his mark there immediately. He fired the company’s CEO, CFO, policy and legal team leaders right away, and has also dissolved Twitter’s board of directors.
According to internal records viewed by CNBC, employees from Musk’s other companies are now authorized to work at Twitter, including more than 50 from Tesla, two from the Boring Company (which is building underground tunnels) and one from Neuralink (which is developing a brain-computer interface).
This move makes sense for one very basic reason. Elon Musk isn’t going to war with the technology that underlies Twitter. He’s fighting a battle against the corporate culture and groupthink that came to define what Twitter was and guided all of the decisions that were made there. The programmers that are being replaced were probably quite capable in terms of handling their jobs. The problem was that their skills were far too often being used in the name of censorship rather than simply making the platform functional.
These are people who are fiercely loyal to Elon Musk and are highly unlikely to try to undermine his vision for the future of the platform. The task they have been assigned is to “learn everything they can about Twitter as quickly as possible.” They are focusing on Twitter’s source code and examining how “content moderation” (read: censorship) is implemented and automated. You can expect a great deal of that code to disappear soon, along with the programmers who put it in place.
Some of those limitations on the old rules of the road are already in place. Bloomberg reports that the accounts of the content moderation team have been “frozen” ahead of the election, with the only changes to content or user accounts being handled manually. Automatic detection and deletion of content or the suspension of accounts has apparently been disabled.
Twitter Inc., the social network being overhauled by new owner Elon Musk, has frozen some employee access to internal tools used for content moderation and other policy enforcement, curbing the staff’s ability to clamp down on misinformation ahead of a major US election.
Most people who work in Twitter’s Trust and Safety organization are currently unable to alter or penalize accounts that break rules around misleading information, offensive posts and hate speech, except for the most high-impact violations that would involve real-world harm, according to people familiar with the matter.
If all of these early reports are accurate, it would seem that Elon Musk is making good on his promise to restore Twitter as a haven for free speech. And he’s not wasting any time in getting started. There are rumors swirling this week that Musk plans to start charging people with verified accounts a monthly fee to keep their blue checks. A figure of twenty bucks per month has been floated.
Personally, I don’t really see that much significant value in my blue check at this point, so I’m not sure that I would be willing to pay for the privilege. But what I wouldn’t mind doing is kicking in a reasonable amount in support of ending censorship and keeping the company profitable. Twenty bucks per month would likely make me balk, but I could see myself pitching in something in the range of five dollars on a monthly basis for a while. Your mileage may vary, of course.