Elon Musk as Owner is a Feared Reality for Twitter Employees - New Style Motorsport

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Twitter employees reacted with astonishment and dismay on Monday when they realized a new reality: Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, a defender of free speech and a strong critic of Twitter, would be the new owner of the company.

On Twitter, in private messages, and in interviews with The Washington Post, employees expressed fear over Musk’s $44 billion takeover. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal along with board chairman Bret Taylor, they held an internal town hall Monday afternoon in which leaders tried to reassure anxious staff but offered few direct answers. A central concern was that Musk would attempt to breach safeguards to protect everyday users that staff had built over many years, according to interviews and tweets, as well as audio of the town hall obtained by The Post.

Some tweeted tearful emojis and memes of people in emotional breakdowns, while others told The Post they were too shocked to speak. At Monday’s town hall, leaders vaguely answered questions about future layoffs, changes in the company’s approach to free speech and safety, and whether the company will continue to make money from advertising.

“I totally understand that this is entertainment for some,” an employee tweeted. “But please understand that this is certainly not entertainment for me.”

“Today’s news is so crazy I literally forgot I have COVID,” another tweeted.

To many observers and employees, Musk’s takeover offer seemed unlikely at first. Musk did not appear to have enough funds to make the offer on his own, and the Twitter board appeared to attempt to derail the deal. But in recent days, Musk has said he has secured financing through loans, and on Monday, the company announced in a press release by which the acquisition had been made. The acquisition, which would rank among the largest activist takeovers of a publicly traded company, would take the company private over the course of three to six months, executives said at city hall.

Musk’s involvement on Twitter, which began this month when he made public that he had taken a large stake in the company, had already sparked protests from employees. In dozens of internal messages obtained by The Post, workers expressed concern that Musk could damage company culture and make it harder for people to do their jobs. Disinformation watchers and researchers echoed the criticism.

The company, which is based in liberal San Francisco and has more than 5,000 employees, has spent years building a progressive corporate culture that allows employees to say almost what they want and live anywhere they choose. Twitter was the first company to take action against former President Donald Trump for his tweets in support of Capitol Hill protesters on Jan. 6, 2021, and engineering teams have spent years building tools to combat spam, misinformation and speech. of hate under an initiative known as healthy conversations.

Elon Musk to address Twitter staff after internal protest

“I don’t know of anyone who isn’t an engineer working in health who sees how this helps,” a Twitter employee said in an interview in response to questions about Musk’s ownership, referring to the company’s health division. enforces rules against harmful content such as hate speech and misinformation. “Most find it daunting.”

Musk, on the other hand, has used his Twitter account, which has more than 84 million followers, to defend free speech and question content moderation decisions, such as Trump’s ban, and appears to mock pronouns from gender. He has also been known as a stern manager who will seek to fire people on the spot when they disagree with his way of thinking, even at one point disbanding his entire PR team.

At the town hall, Twitter executives and board chairman Taylor acknowledged that emotions were running high for people. But they insisted that the deal was financially good for Twitter and that Musk could unlock the company’s untapped potential, though they offered few details about what that meant.

Taylor said the merger received a unanimous vote from the board, and Agrawal said there would be no immediate layoffs or changes to the business while the deal goes through. Once the company goes private, the employees’ shares would be paid in cash.

Elon Musk wants a free speech utopia. Technologists applaud.

But Agrawal was much less clear about the future, particularly questions about whether Musk would change how the company controls speech and enforces its rules online, and even whether the company would stick with its long-term advertising business model.

Agrawal said leadership “will continue to spend time with Elon to learn more, and as we learn more, we’ll share it with you.” He also said his team would seek to better understand what Musk’s “aspirations and ambitions” might be so executives could figure out how to “best collaborate” with the new owner.

The employees seemed dissatisfied, according to conversations during the town hall that an employee described to The Post. A group of employees created a “questions for Elon Musk” document, while others asked during the town hall if he would restore Trump’s Twitter account. Some asked if the leadership was concerned about an exodus of employees.

The company also said it would prevent employees from making changes to the Twitter service until Friday, according to Bloomberg News, a move that could prevent employees from retaliating by damaging Musk’s Twitter account.

The concern is unprecedented: Years ago, a Twitter employee temporarily deleted Trump’s account.

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