In less than a fortnight of owning Twitter, Elon Musk has changed the social platform as we know it – and he is not letting anyone get in his way.
One of his most controversial moves – on top of job cuts – has been making verified users pay $US8 to keep their blue check and open the option up to anyone, not just public figures and companies.
Some verified users changed their names on the platform to Elon Musk in an act of protest, but the real Musk has been quick to shut them down.
American actress Kathy Griffin was one of the first on the list.
The comedian, who has 2 million followers, wrote a series of tweets under Musk’s name until she was suspended on Monday morning.
Musk wrote on Twitter on Monday that all handles engaging in impersonation without specifying they were a parody would be permanently suspended.
“Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning,” he wrote. “This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue.
“Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark.”
He followed it up with the statement: “Widespread verification will democratise journalism & empower the voice of the people.”
Musk wasn’t shy to put the slipper in as news of Griffin’s suspension made its way across the platform, joking that she was actually banned for “impersonating a comedian”.
“After much spirited discussion with the females in my life, I’ve decided that voting blue for their choice is only right. (They’re also sexy females, btw.) #VoteBlueToProtectWomen” she wrote in a tweet encouraging people to vote Democrats in the midterm elections.
Many have argued – including US activist and politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – it is ironic the world’s richest man is trying to convince people free speech will be created by introducing a paid subscription plan.
Earlier this year, Musk said he voted for a Republican for the first time in Texas’ 34th congressional district special election in June.
Stream more tech news live & on demand with Flash. 25+ news channels in 1 place. New to Flash? Try 1 month free. Offer available for a limited time only >
Musk added that his mission was to make Twitter the most accurate source of information about the world.
“My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk,” he said.
As for the job cuts, Mr Musk tweeted on Saturday that “unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day” and that all those who lost their jobs were “offered three months of severance”.
Celebrities call out Musk
Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo tweeted that Elon Musk was “destroying (his) credibility” after the tech mogul’s online spat with New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also known as AOC.
AOC wrote last week: “Lmao at a billionaire earnestly trying to sell people on the idea that ‘free speech’ is actually a $8/mo subscription plan.”
The next day, AOC accused Musk of blocking her account after she said something he disagreed with, noting: “Doesn’t seem very free speechy to me.”
Actor-activist Ruffalo then retweeted AOC, writing: “Elon. Please — for the love of decency — get off Twitter, hand the keys over to someone who does this as an actual job, and get on with running Tesla and SpaceX.
“You are destroying your credibility. It’s just not a good look.”
Musk snidely responded, “Hot take: not everything AOC says is accurate.”
Ruffalo then replied: “Maybe so. That’s why having robust filters for dis/misinformation & credible verified users has been a popular feature for people & advertisers alike. We need those safeguards to make sure it’s accurate information, or the app loses credibility, as do you. And people leave.”
Musk’s ‘brutal’ first week at Twitter
The whirlwind week that saw Musk take over Twitter began with sleepless nights for company engineers – and ended with half the staff getting the axe.
Twitter employees received a first email on Thursday – some seven days after the takeover was officialised – informing them that they would know their fate the next day.
On Friday, the second email confirmed the rumours: 50 per cent of the staff lost their jobs.
“Executives were getting fired or were resigning, but there was basically no official communication until 5pm Thursday,” said one former employee speaking on condition of anonymity.
The cull hit the marketing department hard, took two-thirds of the design department, and maybe 75 per cent of managers.
Content moderation was somewhat spared, with a lay-off rate of only 15 per cent, according to Yoel Roth, head of safety at the platform.
The way the lay-offs were carried out were brutal.
“People would find out not by any phone call or any email … but just by seeing their work laptop automatically reboot and just to go blank,” Emmanuel Cornet, a French engineer who had been at Twitter for a year and a half, told AFP on Friday.
– with NY Post and AFP