After acquiring Twitter last week, Elon Musk has moved fast and made a mess of things already. His chaotic first few days on the job may smack of desperation for a reason: He’s now stuck with a $44 billion acquisition that he clearly did not want, and it’s got to make money. At the same time, there’s every indication that he has no idea what he’s doing.
Numerous reports have suggested that massive staffing changes are or will soon be underway to cut costs, which may have unpredictable effects on the service. Musk immediately fired four top executives: chief executive Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal, chief legal officer Vijaya Gadde, and general counsel Sean Edgett. The Information reported that sources said Musk was making the firings “for cause,” which would allow him to avoid paying over $100 million in severage packages. He has denied multiple reports asserting he planned to lay off the vast majority of the workforce ahead of a Nov. 1 stock grant, but at one point over the weekend he tweeted, “There seem to be 10 people ‘managing’ for every one person coding.”
Musk now seems to be looking for help wherever he can get it to find some direction forward. As Musk moved into the HQ, he reportedly set up a “war room” full of close allies and his inner circle, such as Alex Spiro (Musk’s personal lawyer), venture capitalists and All-In podcast co-hosts David Sacks and Jason Calacanis, a16z general partner Sriram Krishnan, and Mormon financier and Musk wealth manager Jared Birchall. As part of that war room campaign, Twitter engineers were reportedly told to prepare code written in the last 30 to 60 days for review by Musk, only to have Tesla engineers perform the task.
Musk also said he would institute a “content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints” that will debate “moderation decisions” and “account reinstatements,” which sounds like the opposite of coherent policy and is very reminiscent of other, much-criticized attempts to bring accountability to social media by committee like the Facebook Oversight Board.
Outside of the company—on Twitter itself—things were just as chaotic. Racist posts have been on the rise since Musk took over, but Musk tried to reassure the public—specifically LeBron James—that things would be different. He also tweeted (then deleted) an unfounded conspiracy theory claiming Paul Pelosi was attacked by a man met in a gay bar, shared a dickbutt meme, and shared internal communications suggesting Twitter was fabricating metrics surrounding fake accounts.
Musk has even floated the idea of making verified users pay $20 a month to keep their badge, The Verge reported, with Calanacis tweeting a poll where the vast majority of respondents said they wouldn’t pay anything. Musk replied with a simple “Interesting.” If engineers fail to meet Musk’s November 7 deadline for this new change, he will reportedly fire them.
Musk’s first few days on the job have been characterized by spreading conspiracies, reportedly governing by committee, and coming up with harebrained monetization schemes that everyone hates. As for where all of this is leading, Musk has only pointed toward some vague idea for an “everything app” called X that nobody seems to be able to describe, probably, including Musk.
In other words, Musk has been hard at work as the new “Chief Twit” doing what he does best: spectacle, shitposting, and stirring up a storm.