Elon Musk’s first week as the new owner of Twitter has seen a series of dramatic changes.
Musk has fired about half of Twitter’s staff, announced a plan to charge for verification, and suggested adding a paid content feature.
Here’s a summary.
Within hours of taking over, Musk fired several senior executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal.
Reports now suggest several thousand Twitter employees have been sacked – about half the total international staff count. This included Twitter’s entire human rights team, according to one fired team member.
There are some reports Twitter is now reaching out to some employees and asking them to return.
Musk has also announced a plan to offer verification (including a ‘blue tick’) to anyone for $US8 a month. Any existing verified users would need to pay to remain verified.
Musk said this would change the “bullshit” system of “lords & peasants… for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark”, and would also create another revenue stream for Twitter.
He originally proposed $US20, but appeared to change his mind after a Twitter exchange with author Stephen King.
Musk also suggested verified users would have their tweets and replies prioritised, saying “you’ll have to scroll far to see unverified users”.
The move has raised concerns about allowing conspiracies or misinformation to be promoted from ‘verified’ accounts.
It’s unclear how Musk plans to regulate misinformation. He listed “free speech” as a major reason for his takeover, but also said he wouldn’t allow the site to become a “free-for-all hellscape”. This morning, he said any accounts impersonating others without specifying they are a “parody” account would be permanently suspended.
Musk has floated the possibility of allowing users to offer premium content to paid subscribers, specifically video.
A leaked internal email reported by the Washington Post said the company viewed this as high-risk, prompting speculation it was intended to facilitate adult content.
Other suggestions include allowing paid DMs to celebrities and bringing back short-form video app Vine.
Hate speech fears
Many advertisers have threatened to stop advertising on Twitter if it does not maintain policies to clamp down on misinformation.
A recent report by academics showed a large spike in hate speech in the hours after Musk’s takeover.
Musk says Twitter’s content moderation policies have not changed and claims hate speech has actually been below normal levels in the past week. He has accused advertisers of giving in to “activist groups” who are “trying to destroy free speech in America”.