How a single year of Elon Musk turned Twitter into a husk of its older self

How Elon Musk reduced Twitter to a shadow of its former glory in just one year

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Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion exactly one year ago today, sending the business, its users, and workers through a dizzying array of unexpected flips and turns.

After a year, the firm has little changed from what it was, and not just because Musk gave it a new name, “X,” and got rid of the company’s recognizable blue bird logo. Musk has turned a profitable business that was once thought to be the world’s go-to source for breaking news and political commentary into a widely mocked platform that is struggling to make ends meet and is heavily indebted, is unable to control spam and misinformation, has alienated some of its largest advertisers and users, and is aimlessly circling around.

The shift has been propelled by an unceasing parade of resignations, layoffs, and policy reversals, coupled with clumsy product rollouts and broken promises. The business is dealing with a number of legal issues that have further clouded its future, brought up by everyone from landlords to former workers. Multiple regulatory investigations into X are being conducted by the US Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and EU regulators. These investigations may result in sanctions for both X and Musk.

In a statement released on Thursday, Yaccarino expressed her pride in the work her team has been doing to advance the future of X. The CEO of X outlined some of the new features and products that have been introduced in the last year, such as lengthier postings, the opportunity for businesses to publish job ads, and this week’s rollout of audio and video conversations for Premium members. She stated that safety is still a “critical priority” for the platform and that X is “a place where everyone can freely express themselves, so long as they do so within the bounds of the law.”

“Imagine the extent of our ambition for next year if we can accomplish all of this in just 12 months,” Yaccarino remarked.

With the ongoing Israel-Hamas crisis, X is currently facing what may be its largest test yet under new management. Several internet watchdogs and civil society organizations have expressed concern over misleading claims and propaganda connected to the conflict on the platform. Furthermore, X’s contribution to the public discourse seems less and less certain as concerns about the propagation of disinformation operations grow ahead of the elections in the US and other countries in 2019.

In only a single year, all of this happened. However, it feels more like a decade to many, perhaps including hounded people who have moved to alternatives like Threads, Mastodon, and BlueSky. This is a (non-exhaustive) description of how Musk has transformed Twitter since he made one of the most important purchases in the history of social media.

People chuckling

In the months following his takeover, Musk eliminated what he would later estimate to be almost 80% of the company’s workforce in a series of rolling layoffs.

There were few departments that escaped the layoffs. They had an impact on jobs in a number of the most important departments of the business, including communications, ethical AI, policy, trust and safety, and search. The end result was a hollowed-out staff that Musk further reduced in an attempt to save expenses, and was left to manage unstable systems that had previously been called brittle. Under Musk, the business’s technological infrastructure shown an increased propensity for meltdowns, which led to a number of issues early this year that interfered with consumers’ access to the website.

Redesigns of products and policies

Musk’s determination to bring back “free speech” on X has led him to make a number of product and regulatory choices that have changed what users may view on the site.

Former President Donald Trump’s Twitter ban was lifted by him based on an unreliable survey of his fan base. Previously, he had stated that a “content moderation council” would make the final decision, but that council never convened. Additionally, he restored the accounts of conspiracy theorists and white nationalists that had been suspended. Although previously criticizing the platform’s suspension procedures, he briefly suspended a number of journalists from Twitter for their reports on a third-party account dedicated to following Musk’s private plane.

Slow-moving business

Many of Twitter’s biggest advertisers, including overall Mills and the Volkswagen Group, suspended their investment in the early days of Musk’s acquisition due to worries about X’s layoffs, the platform’s inability to moderate content, and overall uncertainty about its future.

The company’s income was severely damaged by the mass advertiser retreat, from which it has not yet fully recovered. Musk has become enraged over the brand revolt, accusing his detractors of purposeful sabotage. He has even threatened to sue the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a watchdog organization, and the Anti-Defamation League, claiming that their reports about the rise in hate speech on X have harmed the brand.

Musk’s unpredictable actions

Musk has emerged as the most dependable protagonist on the site, offering his opinions on the biggest topics of the day regardless of whether he is aware of them. Following a vicious attack on Paul Pelosi in his own house, Musk unjustly promoted extreme conspiracy theories concerning the attack. Before subsequently removing his post, he advised X users to follow an account renowned for disseminating false information in order to keep track of the Israel-Hamas war. In response to racist remarks made by “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams, he has tacitly endorsed him. He has also denounced financier George Soros, who is frequently the subject of antisemitic conspiracy theories.

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