Three weeks ago, the world’s richest man bought Twitter for $44 billion.
Since then, the once-inescapable social media platform has been jerked around under Elon Musk’s erratic tutelage as scores of crucial staffers—and advertisers, which account for some 90 percent of Twitter’s revenue—head for the exits.
Through it all, Musk has projected confidence.
“The best people are staying, so I’m not super worried,” he tweeted Thursday night, while simultaneously informing employees the company would be shuttering its offices and deactivating workers’ access cards until next week.
By Friday morning, Musk finally seemed to be worried.
“Anyone who can actually write software, please report to the 10th floor at 2pm today,” he pleaded in an email obtained by Platformer, The New York Times, and others. “Before doing so, please email me a bullet point summary of what your code commits have achieved in the past 6 months.”
A few hours later, Musk reportedly fired off another email to remote Twitter engineers, saying he wanted to meet with them by midnight—and requested screenshots of their “most salient lines of code.”
“If possible, I would encourage you to fly to SF to present in person,” Musk reportedly wrote, adding, “[O]nly those who cannot physically get to Twitter HQ are excused.”
He said there would be “short, technical interviews that allow me to better understand the Twitter tech stack,” Reuters reported.
NEW: Email from Elon to the engineering team: "Anyone who can actually write software, please report to the 10th floor at 2pm today. Before doing so, please email me a bullet point summary of what your code commits have achieved in the past 6 months" 1/
— Zoë Schiffer (@ZoeSchiffer) November 18, 2022
Since Twitter no longer has a communications department, The Daily Beast was unable to contact a company spokesperson on Friday for comment.
Twitter’s problems began to mount quickly after Musk lopped off about half its workforce upon assuming command early this month. The 2,900 staff members who remained at Twitter received an ultimatum: Anyone who wanted to stay would need to be “extremely hardcore” about being there.
“Going forward, to build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0 and succeed in an increasingly competitive world, we will need to be extremely hardcore,” Musk wrote in a memo sent early Wednesday.
“This will mean working long hours at high intensity,” Musk said in the missive, which was first reported by The Washington Post. “Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.”
Those who didn’t wish to continue under Twitter’s new ownership were invited to leave, with three months pay as severance. Musk gave everyone until 5 p.m. Thursday to decide. And many, as it turned out, took the deal.
Twitter has also shed users under Musk’s chaotic tenure, and its most important engineering teams have been decimated in recent days. As Thursday wound down and 5 o’clock rolled around, up to 75 percent of Twitter’s staff reportedly jumped ship.
The “core services team” at the company has gone from 100 people to 4, according to two sources quoted by The New York Times. One employee told the newspaper that she wanted to resign but no longer had any idea who her manager was because so many others had already quit. She finally found the right person, who themselves reportedly wound up quitting the next day.
“It feels like all the people who made this place incredible are leaving,” one Twitter employee told The Verge. “It will be extremely hard for Twitter to recover from here, no matter how hardcore the people who remain try to be.”
As he has regularly done since taking over the world’s 16th-most-popular social media network, behind, among others, Pinterest, Telegram, and QZone, Musk has simply tweeted through the turmoil. Announcing yet another “policy” change on Friday afternoon, following a string of turbulent and often contradictory moves since assuming the controls, Musk floated a new one.
“New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach,” he tweeted. “Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter. You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of Internet.”
Two minutes later, Musk tweeted, “Kathie [sic] Griffin, Jorden [sic] Peterson & Babylon Bee have been reinstated. Trump decision has not yet been made,” referring to the former president’s permanent suspension from the site “due to the risk of further incitement of violence” in the hours and days after the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
Griffin’s account was suspended earlier this month for impersonating Musk, a popular way people have trolled the tetchy mogul in the wake of Twitter’s disastrous new user verification rollout. Petersen, a Canadian “men’s rights” advocate, and the Babylon Bee, a right-wing Christian humor website, were both suspended for violating Twitter's restrictions on hate speech.