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Elon Musk took Twitter from trouble to tanking

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Billionaire Elon Musk chuckled as he carried a sink through the Twitter lobby.

“Enter Twitter HQ – let him in!” Musk tweeted alongside a video of his entry on October 10. 26.

The bizarre moment marked the start of his chaotic direction of the influential social media company. Musk offered to buy Twitter in April, then tried to walk away from the deal, only to reverse course again after the company sued. By the time he walked in with a white porcelain meme in his hand, he had spent months fighting not to own it. But once he was boss, he wasted no time making his mark.

With massive layoffs, users flock to alternatives and advertisers cutting spending on Twitter, Musk acquired a beleaguered platform and turned it into a crumbling circus for all of his 238 million users — and the rest of the world — to watch.

“Twitter’s future is particularly uncertain — and it doesn’t look good,” said Mike Proulx, research director at Forrester.

musk flip flops

The first public whisper that Musk was considering a Twitter overhaul was just a hint: He quizzed his followers with a tweet, asking if they thought Twitter “rigorously adheres” to free speech principles. . “The consequences of this poll will be significant,” Musk tweeted. “Please vote carefully”

After 70% of 2 million voters answered “No”, Musk in March bought a roughly 9% stake in Twittermaking him its main single shareholder.

Over the next few weeks, Musk was elusive about what he wanted to do with Twitter. At first he seemed ready to join Twitter’s Board of Directors. Then he stepped back. Finally, he made an offer that would irrevocably change the course of the company: he wanted to buy it for $44 billion.

But even after Twitter accepted his proposal, inverted musk again. He wanted to scrap the deal, he said, claiming the social network had misled him about the number of fake and spam accounts it had. Twitter prosecuted to enforce the agreement.

“Musk apparently believes he…is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy shareholder value and walk away,” Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk said in July.

The legal battle ended in October when Musk, facing a deadline to take on Twitter in what could be a messy public trial, has once again changed its mind and agreed to buy Twitter after all. Musk’s purchase of Twitter was the fifth-biggest tech deal in the past two decades, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

While the back-and-forth drama between Musk and Twitter stole the show, the social network’s other issues only grew.

A whistleblower appears

Essay by Peiter Zatko before the Senate Judiciary Committee

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, former head of security at Twitter, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 29. February 13, 2022 in Washington, DC

Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

After years of data breaches, a Twitter insider – and well-known security expert – has accused the company of blatantly failing to protect user safety.

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, Twitter’s former security chief, revealed in end of August that he had filed a whistleblower complaint against the company. Zatko, who was fired from Twitter, reportedly uncovered “extreme and glaring deficiencies” in Twitter’s handling of privacy, security and moderation of user content.

Twitter pushed back against the allegations, saying in a statement that the complaint was “tricked with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacked significant context.”

The complaint, however, caught the attention of US lawmakers and regulators. Zatko tested before US Senate Judiciary Committee In September, three weeks after his complaint became public.

“When an influential media platform can be compromised by teenagers, thieves and spies and the company itself repeatedly creates security issues, it’s a big problem for all of us,” said- he told lawmakers.

Zatko alleged that Twitter violated a 11-year settlement with the Federal Trade Commission falsely claiming that it had a comprehensive security program. If the accusation is true, Twitter could face fines from the agency, while grappling with ad pullback, a difficult rise in subscriptions and heavy payments due on Twitter’s mountain of debt.

Twitter’s woes are far from over

Elon Musk's Twitter page seen on a phone with his poll to step down as Twitter CEO

Elon Musk polled Twitter users in December, asking if he should step down as CEO.

Photo illustration by Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images

When Musk completed his purchase of Twitter, it closed a chapter of distracting drama for the company – and opened a whirlwind of upheaval and disruption.

Musk cut about 50% of Twitter’s workforce, or around 3,700 workers, in November – layoffs that have sparked lawsuits alleging violations of workers’ rights. More and more Twitter executives and employees quit, with so many flaws that Twitter users feared the site would crash. As Musk slashed costs and jobs, he also made (and remade) rapid changes to the service, such as rolling out a new account verification system and reinstating controversial accounts like the old one. US President Donald Trumpwho Twitter had started from the platform for violating the site’s rules against advocating violence. He has repeatedly changed his mind about Twitter’s rules on sharing private information and links to rival social media sites, temporarily suspending reporters and other accounts.

Musk’s erratic changes quickly prompted brands to cut spending on the platform, with some fearing their posts would appear alongside hate messages. At the end of November, a left-wing non-profit organization Media matters to America reported that Musk had kicked out half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers, which accounted for more than $750 million in advertising dollars in 2022. For his part, Musk wanted to reduce Twitter’s reliance on ads anyway, hoping increase subscription revenue by offering users a coveted blue tick and other features if they sign up for a Twitter Blue Membership.

But Twitter botched the initial rollout of its revamped Blue subscription, and big brands ended up paying the price. A fake verified account impersonated Eli Lilly and falsely tweeted that the pharmaceutical company was offering insulin for free, causing the company’s stock to plummet. Another claimed to be video game company Nintendo, sharing messages with rude hand gestures. Twitter has relaunched the subscription service in December with more safeguards to prevent imposter accounts, but paying for more features is still a hard sell to users.

Analysts say Twitter’s subscription efforts won’t make up for its lost ad dollars. According to a Forrester survey, less than 20% of Twitter users in the US, UK and France are willing to pay for Twitter Blue.

In December, Musk launched another poll, asking him if he should stepping down as CEO of Twitter. Of the 17.5 million Twitter users who responded, 57.5% said he should. Shortly after the polls closed, Musk said he would step down as soon as he could “find someone dumb enough to take the job.”

“Without a constant and growing cash flow and [with] A CEO who causes chaos, Twitter will continue to delegate,” said Proulx of Forrester. But if Twitter can find a leader who can win the trust of stakeholders with a “clear and unifying vision”, he said, it could survive.

Whether he takes the place of another CEO or not, Musk will remain the owner of Twitter for the foreseeable future, even if he sinks it.

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