A day of chaos brings Twitter closer to the brink


Washington
CNN Business

Two weeks after Elon Musk completed his acquisition of Twitter, the company’s future has never looked less certain.

Just last week, one of the most influential social networks in the world laid off half of its workforce; alienated powerful advertisers; blew up key aspects of its product, then repeatedly released and failed to release other features to make up for it; and witnessed an exodus of senior executives.

The wild swings on Twitter only seemed to pick up speed on Thursday with more executive departures, growing chaos around fake verified accounts and an unusual public rebuke from the US government. Twitter now appears to be on the brink, a point Musk himself appeared to concede on Thursday when telling employees that bankruptcy could be on the horizon (although this is far from the first time he’s been warned bankruptcy of one of his companies).

“All day !” Musk tweeted.

It’s a stunning reversal of fortune not only for Musk, who bought the company for $44 billion, but also for a platform used by some of the most powerful people on the planet, including world leaders, CEO and the Pope.

An end to the disruption seemed nowhere in sight on Friday. In its latest twist on the matter, Twitter said it would reintroduce a gray “official” badge for certain accounts to confirm their identity. The decision came after Twitter was forced to fend off a wave of verified account impostors this week, including some posing as former President Donald Trump, Nintendo and pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, among others. These accounts are the result of Musk’s decision to rush in offering a blue check mark to any account holder willing to pay $8 a month, no questions asked, as he rushes to find new ways to earn money. money on the platform.

This paid subscription service was also suspended on Friday with little warning, just two days after its official launch, with the menu option to sign up for Twitter Blue suddenly disappearing from Twitter’s iOS app – the only where the add-on had been offered. It was not immediately clear when the company might reinstate the offer.

The gray “Official” badge has become an illustration of the whiplash suffered by users, employees and advertisers in recent days.

Hours after the gray badges launched on Wednesday to help users differentiate legitimate celebrity and brand accounts from accounts that had simply paid for a blue tick, Musk abruptly tweeted that he had “killed” the feature, forcing his subordinate to explain the inversion. .

“We do not currently label accounts ‘official’, but we aggressively seek out impersonation and deception,” Twitter’s verified support account tweeted late Wednesday.

The account’s next tweet, a day and nine hours later, said the exact opposite: “To combat impersonation, we’ve added an ‘Official’ label to some accounts.”

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on changes to the rollout of the Twitter Blue or “Official” badges.

The difficult rollout of the paid verification feature drew widespread criticism from disinformation experts who warned it would make identifying reliable information much more difficult, especially in the critical post-war period. US midterm elections. Even some of Musk’s other power users on the platform had harsh comments.

“@elonmusk contractor to contractor for when you have your customer service hat on. I just spent too much time deactivating all newly purchased checkmark accounts in an effort to make my verified mentions useful again,” tweeted billionaire Mark Cuban.

“At the end of the day, you have a decision to make,” said Cuban added. “Stay with the new Twitter that democratizes every tweet through paid accounts and requires all users to manage themselves. Or bring back Twitter curation. One makes Twitter efficient in terms of time and information. The other is awful.

At a Twitter Spaces event for advertisers this week, Musk pleaded with brands to continue using the platform, after a growing number of companies suspended ads, prompting what Musk previously described as a “massive drop in income”. In the event, Musk sought to appear magnanimous in accepting responsibility for the company’s performance.

“If things go wrong, it’s my fault, because the responsibility lies with me,” he told more than 100,000 listeners.

But privately, Musk’s critics have described the billionaire as dismissive of accountability, even in the face of scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission, which publicly warned Thursday, in a rare forward-looking statement, that he “follows recent developments on Twitter with deep concern.”

According to an internal Slack message posted by a Twitter employee and seen by CNN, Musk showed little fear that FTC regulators would oversee the company’s multiple legally binding consent agreements, committing it to maintain a program of strong cybersecurity and produce written privacy impact reports prior to launch. any new product or service, a requirement that could cover Twitter Blue.

The company already faces billions in potential fines from the FTC for alleged privacy missteps that pre-date Musk’s ownership. But, the Twitter employee warned colleagues, Twitter could find itself even more legally exposed after the sudden resignation of several senior Twitter executives tasked with fulfilling the company’s FTC obligations, including its chief security officer. Information and its Chief Privacy Officer.

Forced to face the imminent risk of FTC surveillance, Musk reportedly adopted a conciliatory tone.

“Twitter will do whatever it takes to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the FTC’s consent decree,” Musk reportedly wrote in an email to employees Thursday night.

The one thing Musk says is going in his favor on Twitter is user growth as more people tune in to watch him fumble in possession of the company.

“Twitter usage is at an all-time high,” Musk tweeted earlier this week, before adding a follow-up tweet“I just hope the servers don’t melt!”

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