BROOKE GLADSTONE This is On the Media, I'm Brooke Gladstone. Elon Musk acquired Twitter less than a month ago, but according to what I'm reading on Twitter, his debut weeks have been somewhat [CLEARS THROAT] disorganized.
NEWS REPORT The social media giant appearing to be in disarray after as many as half of its employees were laid off.
NEWS REPORT How's this for a first message from your new boss? Elon Musk suggested the company could go into bankruptcy as executives are resigning, advertisers are fleeing and trolls are running rampant.
NEWS REPORT The latest turmoil at Twitter this morning. More than 4000 contract workers were terminated over the weekend. [END CLIP]
ZOË SCHIFFER There's a money story and then a people story and both of those seem to be in crisis.
BROOKE GLADSTONE Zoë Schiffer is the managing editor of Platformer, an investigative newsletter on the tech industry in Silicon Valley.
ZOË SCHIFFER One of the first things that happened was he decided to change how verification worked on Twitter.
BROOKE GLADSTONE Now, you no longer had to prove you were the big shot you claimed to be. Just pay eight bucks monthly.
ZOË SCHIFFER We instantly saw brands being impersonated by spoof accounts. We had Eli Lilly, a big pharmaceutical company, with a spoof account saying 'insulin is free.'
BROOKE GLADSTONE Musk dropped the eight buck gambit. He said he's just trying to find ways to pay the bills, but his actions have scared off advertisers who supply 90% of the company's revenue. They like to float their ads in calm waters, and the big ad agencies have put up red flags. So companies like Volkswagen, Pfizer, General Mills and no surprise, Eli Lilly –
ZOË SCHIFFER Are fleeing a platform right now. On the people side of things, we've seen, if anything, even more of a crisis.
BROOKE GLADSTONE In addition to laying off half the company and an estimated 80% of the contract workforce.
ZOË SCHIFFER They're increasingly worried that Twitter employees are going to actually sabotage the service. So on the engineering side, they've implemented a complete code freeze. So that's fairly normal, not allowing people to ship code, but right now they're not even allowing people to write code. And they're going through Slack and making lists of people who've been critical of Elon Musk, who've emoji reacted to people who've been critical, and then they're terminating them overnight.
BROOKE GLADSTONE Then on Wednesday, Elon Musk sent out the hardcore email.
NEWS REPORT Employees have until 5 p.m. today to commit to extremely hard core work. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE According to Musk, building Twitter 2.0 will mean working long hours at high intensity.
NEWS REPORT The email directs employees to click 'Yes' if they want to continue working there. Anyone who does not respond will be let go and given three months of severance pay. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE The ultimatum led to a wave of resignations. And then on Thursday night.
NEWS REPORT San Francisco based Twitter has closed all offices and suspended badge access until Monday. So the question tonight, will he have enough workers left to keep the place running?
NEWS REPORT A fair amount of pessimism. The top trending hashtag on the site right now is R.I.P. Twitter. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Users tweeted their goodbyes, reminisced about good times, gone by and prepared for the burial. And some wondered yet again what the hell Musk thought he was doing and why.
ZOË SCHIFFER Elon Musk said that he bought Twitter because he is a free speech absolutist. And he thinks that there needs to be a place where everyone on the Internet can speak as freely as possible. So there is deep irony in the fact that we are seeing him crack down so harshly on his own employees who are critiquing him. And I think, you know, for listeners, it's easy to say, well, you know, you can't just criticize your boss online. Like, of course there are consequences. But you have to understand that under Jack Dorsey, Twitter had a culture where it really encouraged people to do exactly that. It wanted employees at every level of company to push back at company executives. And company policies haven't changed. So suddenly people are being fired for policies that they didn't know existed in the first place by a boss who has ostensibly said that the reason he is their boss is because he believes in free speech.
BROOKE GLADSTONE So that was the national Twitter news from Zoë Schiffer, managing editor of Platformer.