As of Sunday, it’s officially been a month since the world’s richest man took the helm at Twitter.
During that time, Elon Musk initiated mass layoffs and issued a cryptic ultimatum to the remaining employees, restored the accounts of controversial figures including former President Donald Trump, and took off — and then enacted a plan to turn Twitter’s iconic blue ticks into to invoice.
After months of embroiled in an unsuccessful legal battle to get away from his initial proposal to buy Twitter, Musk made his first public appearance with a sink at the company’s offices on Oct. 26. (In a Video of the incident, which was shared on Twitter, he wrote: “Enter Twitter HQ – take it in!)
Since then, the billionaire has seemingly left no stone unturned in his whirlwind first month as “Chief Twit.” Here’s how Musk (who’s still CEO of his other companies, Tesla and SpaceX) has already made his mark on one of the most influential social media platforms.
Almost immediately after Musk closed his dramatic $44 billion deal to buy Twitter, he fired former CEO Parag Agrawal and other executives. He then made himself CEO and sole director of the platform via securities filing.
However, the dramatic management reshuffle was only the first foretaste of the major personnel changes to come. Musk began widespread layoffs across the company, cutting the overall headcount by about 50% in a matter of days.
On the eve of November 3 and November 4, scores of now-ex-Twitter employees began posting to the platform that they had been banned from their company email accounts as the job cuts unfolded in a very dramatic, public manner .
The layoffs impacted departments such as ethical AI, marketing and communications, search, public policy and more. As workers said goodbye to their colleagues online (many shared blue hearts and greeting emojis to signal they’d lost their jobs on Twitter), Musk was largely silent, at least on the downsizing.
In another dramatic move by the new boss, Musk publicly fired a software engineer who survived the first round of cuts but then questioned Musk on Twitter.
In an overnight internal email following the massive downsizing, Musk urged the remaining Twitter employees to commit to “extremely hard” work or leave the company on a severance package.
“To build a future breakthrough Twitter 2.0 and thrive in an increasingly competitive world, we must be extremely persistent,” Musk wrote in the Nov. 16 memo. “This means working long hours at high intensity. Only extraordinary achievements justify a passing grade.”
In the memo, Musk goes on to outline how Twitter will be “much more engineering-centric” and then gives employees an ultimatum. “If you’re sure you want to be part of the new Twitter, please click Yes on the link below,” directing staff to what appears to be an online form.
Musk said any employee who didn’t do so by 5 p.m. ET the following day, Thursday, would receive three months’ severance pay.
In the shadow of the mass exodus of workers, a migration of advertisers was also looming.
Since Musk’s acquisition, a handful of brands – from General Mills to The North Face to Volkswagen Group – have confirmed a commercial break on the social media as civil society organizations raised fresh concerns about Musk’s leadership of the company.
About a week after acquiring the company, Musk said there was a “massive drop in sales.”
“Twitter saw a massive drop in revenue as activist groups pressured advertisers, even though content moderation hasn’t changed and we’ve done everything we can to appease activists,” he said in a Nov. 4 tweet. “Extremely messed up! They are trying to destroy freedom of speech in America.”
Another aspect of Twitter that Musk was quick to turn on its head is one of the platform’s most recognizable features for its users: the verified blue ticks, which have long been used to test the authenticity of government officials, journalists, and other public figures to confirm.
“Twitter’s current lords and peasants system for who has a blue tick and who doesn’t is bullshit,” Musk tweeted Nov. 1. “Power to the people! Blue for $8/month.”
In fact, on November 5th, Twitter launched an updated version of its iOS app that allowed users to pay a monthly subscription fee to get a blue tick on their profiles. The update, as detailed on Apple’s App Store at the time, said users would now have to pay $7.99 per month for the company’s Twitter Blue subscription to get a tick on the platform, “just like.” the celebrities, corporations and politicians you already follow.”
Within days of the subscription service’s launch, Twitter was inundated with a wave of celebrities and company identifiers, who quickly took to the new system to impersonate brands and celebrities.
mayhem ensued. In one viral example, a fake account with a newly acquired blue tick pretending to be pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly tweeted that a key diabetes drug was now free.
Eventually, in the wake of the chaos, Musk announced that it would delay launching the subscription service until the end of the month.
“Blue Verified relaunch by November 29th to ensure it’s rock solid,” Musk tweeted Nov. 15.
On Nov. 24, Musk gave a slightly different target date for the relaunch, Dec. 2, and offered more details about the future service, including a set of tick colors to indicate the type of account being verified.
On Nov. 19, Musk restored former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, almost two years after he was permanently suspended following the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.
The move came shortly after Twitter restored the accounts of several other controversial, previously banned or suspended users, including conservative Canadian podcaster Jordan Peterson, right-wing satirical website Babylon Bee, comedian Kathy Griffin and MP Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Before restoring Trump’s Twitter account, Musk released a poll asking users of the platform whether Trump should be reinstated – where a narrow majority (51.8%) voted in favour.
“People have spoken. Trump will be reinstated,” Musk tweeted. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei.” (Latin for “the voice of the people is the voice of God”).
Trump has previously said he will remain on his own platform, Truth Social, rather than return to Twitter, and has yet to tweet since his account came back online.
A change in his approach could have major political implications, however, as Trump has announced that he will seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
Following another Twitter poll on November 24, Musk said he would begin restoring most previously suspended accounts on Twitter starting next week. It would be his most far-reaching move yet to reverse the social media platform’s policy of permanently banning users who have repeatedly broken its rules.
The Thanksgiving Day announcement came after most respondents voted in favor of his poll on whether “banned accounts should be offered a general amnesty provided they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.”
Musk again tweeted that “people have spoken.”
His recent decisions to restore previously suspended accounts, based on the results of his surveys on the platform, are particularly at odds with how Musk previously said he would handle such decisions.
Just a day after his acquisition of Twitter, Musk said the social media company “will form a content moderation council with very different viewpoints.”
“No major content decisions or account reactivations will take place before this council meets,” Musk added
It’s not immediately clear if this council was ever formed, convened, or involved in decision-making to bring back Trump and formerly suspended accounts.