Everyone is trying to figure out what Elon Musk is doing with Twitter. Since he took ownership a month ago, he’s fired half the employees, laid off another 5000 contractors, lost most of his advertisers, and eliminated the company’s system of verification. While he needs to reduce the losses, his actions are contrary to common sense and are making matters much worse.
While few can fathom his actions, the consequences are very clear. Musk is destroying Twitter and driving it into bankruptcy. It’s evident that he resents that he was forced to buy Twitter after signing an agreement and then trying to reneg, and is making it miserable for its employers, its users, his investors and advertisers. Of course, now that he owns Twitter, he’s free to do whatever he wants…as long as he doesn’t violate any laws. In regard to laws, the FTC is paying special attention to the reporting requirements Twitter had agreed to after being fined for privacy violations.
Musk’s own tweeting is making matters worse. He questioned whether the attack on Paul Pelosi’s might have been suspect, attacked a senator for raising privacy concerns, and tweets regularly about conspiracy theories.
As Casey Newton writes in his excellent newsletter, The Platformer,
“Employees and advertisers keep warning him about the risks of changes he’s making to Twitter — but he’s not listening…. Days before the Nov. 9 launch, the company’s trust and safety team had prepared a seven-page list of recommendations intended to help Musk avoid the most obvious and damaging consequences of his plans for Blue [the verification system turned into an $8/mo. revenue-raising scheme]. The document, which was obtained by Platformer, predicts with eerie accuracy some of the events that follow.
The team identified several other risks for which Twitter has yet to identify any solutions. For starters, the company lacks any automated way to remove verified badges from user accounts. “Given that we will have a large amount of legacy verified users on the platform (400K Twitter customers), and that we anticipate we’ll need to debadge a large number of legacy verified accounts if they decide not to pay for Blue, this will require high operational lift without investment.”
Despite the warnings, Musk proceeded as planned, the problems occurred, and Musk halted the blue check rolllout.
And, as predicted, advertisers suffered. Eli Lilly pulled its advertising after a “verified” fake account tweeted that insulin would now be free. It caused their stock to fall by 10% before the tweet was removed six hours later.
This was just a few days after Twitter’s two remaining ad executives, along with Musk, met with advertisers to reassure them that all would be good. Days later the two resigned.
While we may be puzzled at why Musk is doing this, there’s no doubt, intentionally or not, he’s dismembering and destroying the company he paid $44 billion for. Perhaps it’s revenge, perhaps it’s ignorance. Or perhaps he’s just way over his head and thinks he knows best, oblivious to reality. I think it’s extreme stupidity combined with extreme arrogance. What’s so puzzling is Musk has shown brilliance with his other endeavors, Tesla and SpaceX. He’s always been erratic and eccentric and has had employee issues, but never ito this extent.
The implications now reach beyond Twitter. We’re seeing a side of Musk unmasked that raises big red flags about his own reputation and his companies. He’s intimately involved in pushing out self-driving technology on Teslas and is under investigation by the Transportation Department for a number of related deaths, including self-driving Teslas crashing into emergency vehicles at the side of the road and killing a number of people. Can his judgement be trusted?
Some think his close association with China and Saudia Arabia are influencing his actions, while his cult-like followers attribute his behavior to some sort of hidden genius. Much like Trump, they can see no wrong when it’s so obvious to others.
And the craziness continues. This week Elon Musk dismissed a long-time engineer who had publicly questioned him. Eric Frohnhoefer of San Diego was trying to explain how one of Musk’s decision had serious implications to the site. After one of Musk’s syncophants pointed out the tweet and suggested Musk fire him, he did just that. Frohnhoefer told Forbe’s that “They’re all a bunch of cowards.” Then his assistants combed through company chatboards to identify and fire dozens more those that were critical of Musk. Now Musk has asked all those employees remaining to agree to a loyalty oath and to working extra long hours or be terminated with two months severence. Most are refusing to play, leaving few resources to run the company.I I expect the site to fail or seriously deteriorate before the end of the year.
In the meantime others are working on a replacement for Twitter. One of the most promising is “Post News” being developed by one of the founders of Waze. Those interested can sign up here for an invitation.
To date, the article on Elon Musk by Phil Baker comes the closest to identifying the increasingly obvious evidence of Elon Musk’s deteriorating mental state. My husband recently observed to me that virtually no one – no media, no newspaper, no publication – has questioned the man’s sanity when it seems clear he has lost it or is rapidly losing it. The same thing happened with Trump. Nobody risked until very late in the game analyzing or identifying his obvious personality disorders.
I am no psychologist nor psychiatrist nor medical professional, and I realize the danger of armchair practice of these fields, but sometimes common sense and your own life experience can identitfy what is staring you in the face, even if everyone else is too afraid, cautious or intimidated to say anything. To me, what the man needs is an “intervention” – but who on this planet could possibly instigate that?! This is what happens when one person, entity, family whatever is allowed to gain too much power, and in Elon’s case, accompanied by unlimited wealth. Not only has the man destroyed jobs and no doubt lives of the persons who work/worked for him, he is destroying a whole communications system that millions of people have relied on.
Who is going to stop him? Our Western worship of capitalistic power, money and greed certainly won’t. It only enables more like him.
I very rarely write comments, but some topics cry out for action.
Anyhow, thanks for listening, as they say . . .