Twitter’s future appeared to be in jeopardy. Friday, after its offices were locked down and key employees announced their departures in defiance of new owner Elon Musk’s ultimatum.
Fears grew that the new exodus would endanger one of the world’s most influential internet platforms, which serves as a key communication tool for the world’s media, politicians, corporations, and celebrities.
Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has come under fire for making radical changes at the California-based company, which he purchased for $44 billion less than a month ago.
Musk told employees in an internal memo this week that they must choose to be “extremely hardcore” or lose their jobs.
He had already fired half of the company’s 7,500 employees, scrapped a work-from-home policy, and imposed long hours, all while his attempts to restructure Twitter have been met with criticism and delays.
“I may be #exceptional, but I’m just not #hardcore,” one former employee, Andrea Horst, tweeted, whose LinkedIn profile still reads “Supply Chain & Capacity Management (Survivor) @Twitter.”
His bumbling attempts to revamp user verification with a contentious subscription service have resulted in a slew of fake accounts and pranks, as well as a withdrawal of major advertisers from the platform.
According to Musk, the site’s impending demise was driving record-breaking engagement on Twitter.
He made light of the irony by sharing a popular meme of an actor jokingly posing over a grave. Twitter’s logo was superimposed on both the man and the tombstone. More than 1.3 million people “liked” the post.
Later, during the early hours of Friday morning on the West Coast, the South African-born billionaire tweeted, “Record numbers of users are logging in to see if Twitter is dead, ironically making it more alive than ever!”
Musk added, “The best people are staying, so I’m not overly concerned.”
Despite Musk’s assurances, according to an internal message seen by US media, entry to Twitter’s offices was temporarily closed until Monday, even with a badge.
Musk had asked staff to follow a link in an internal memo sent Wednesday to confirm their commitment to “the new Twitter” by 5:00 p.m. New York time (2200 GMT) on Thursday.
They would have lost their jobs if they had not done so, and they would have received three months of severance pay.
On Friday, there were signs that government regulators were growing impatient with Musk’s handling of Twitter, particularly with the platform’s ability to moderate content with a drastically reduced headcount.
On Thursday, a group of US senators said Musk’s plans for the site “undermined the platform’s integrity and safety… despite clear warnings that those changes would be abused for fraud, scams, and dangerous impersonation.”
Meanwhile, a top European Union regulator stated that Musk should be increasing, not decreasing, the number of moderators in Europe.
According to EU Commissioner Thierry Breton, Musk “knows perfectly well what the conditions are for Twitter to continue operating in Europe.”
According to a spokesman for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the government is monitoring developments at Twitter “with growing concern” and is reviewing its presence on the platform.