Elon Musk sets to work at Twitter by firing all its top people

Elon Musk enters Twitter headquarters with kitchen sink and changes profile to ‘Chief Twit’ (Credit: AP)

Elon Musk has fired Twitter’s CEO, as well as a few other senior executives, within days of taking ownership.

The world’s richest man confirmed yesterday he had completed his long-running $44 billion takeover of Twitter. And he hasn’t wasted any time making changes.

The South Africa-born entrepreneur has already dismissed chief executive Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal and general counsel Vijaya Gadde.

However, according to reports, Mr Musk told staff during his visit that it was not true that he was planning on cutting up to 75% of Twitter staff after acquiring the company.

It had previously been reported that Mr Musk told investors he planned to cut around three-quarters of the firm’s 7,500 employees.

Parag Agrawal has been fired as CEO of Twitter (Credit: Getty)

Staff, Twitter users and industry experts are waiting to see what plans Musk has for the platform.

He has previously spoken of his belief in ‘absolute free speech’ and suggested he would allow previously suspended and often controversial figures, including former US president Donald Trump, to return to the platform, which has alarmed online safety campaigners.

What will Twitter look like under Elon Musk?

The SpaceX and Tesla boss said his reasons for acquiring Twitter were ‘because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence.’ 

However, he has insisted the social platform won’t become a ‘hellscape’ under his watch.

He added: ‘In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play video games ranging from all ages to mature.’

Twitter staff are trying to keep morale high after Musk’s takeover (Credit: Twitter)

Writing in The Conversation, Erik Gordon, a Professor of Business at the University of Michigan, says Musk will look to take the company private to maximise his control over it.

‘Once the shares change hands, Twitter will be Musk’s to do with as he pleases – from reopening the accounts of former President Donald Trump and Ye, the artist formally known as Kanye West, to slashing the workforce by up to 75%.

‘Musk understood the physics of launching rockets and the engineering behind building an electric car, but he doesn’t have deep experience running a social media platform or in building super apps. I believe he doesn’t have a thoroughly thought-out strategy that fits Twitter’s difficult environment.

‘What he will have is a huge amount of debt. Last year, Twitter owed about $51 million in interest on its debt. After going private, the estimates are that Twitter will owe at least a billion dollars annually on about $13 billion in new debt.’

Ned Segal, the chief financial officer of Twitter, has also been fired by Musk (Credit: Getty Images)

‘In 2021, the company generated just $630 million in cash from operations. That means Musk won’t have much cash to fund a super app or any other big ideas, unless he is able to attract additional investment in the company.

‘With the company in his hands, Musk can, of course, do what he likes. He can implement any free speech policy that suits his fancy. He can let Trump and Ye tweet. He can ban Tesla short sellers and anyone who questions his foreign policy initiatives. He can fire 75% of his staff in a heartbeat – something a public CEO would have a very hard time doing.’

The return of Donald Trump and ‘free speech’

The Tesla and SpaceX boss has said he believes strongly in absolute free speech, to the extent that anything that is not illegal should be allowed to stay online.

And he has confirmed he would allow banned accounts, such as that of former US president Donald Trump, to return to help achieve Twitter’s mission to be an unfiltered ‘common digital town square’.

Former President Donald Trump makes his entrance at a rally at the Minden Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nev., Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Jos?? Luis Villegas, Pool)

Elon Musk has indicated that Donald Trump could be reinstated on Twitter (Credits: AP)

Musk has said he believes it is ‘important to the future of civilisation’ to have a space where ‘a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner’.

This stance would be likely to face significant issues once the Online Safety Bill comes into effect in the UK.

While the Bill has pledged to protect free speech through protections around content of democratic importance and from news publishers, it will require platforms not just to take down any illegal content but also any topics which have been designated ‘legal but harmful’, which is likely to be content linked to abuse or harassment, among other things.

With large fines and even the prospect of being banned from the UK as potential penalties, Musk is likely to have to soften his stance on absolute free speech if he wants Twitter to stay on the right side of regulators.

Advertisers too are unlikely to be happy about the possibility of their adverts appearing alongside increasingly controversial content.

The everything app

A key moment in this takeover saga came when Musk confirmed he would go ahead with the deal and said buying the platform was ‘an accelerant to creating X, the everything app’.

The billionaire has spoken broadly in the past about his support for the idea of an ‘everything app’ – a single place where users can access most, if not all, of their favourite online services and utilities.

Musk could use Twitter to form the basis of an ‘everything app’ (Credit: Getty)

In China, a version of the everything app idea already exists in WeChat, which began life as a messaging platform similar to WhatsApp, but has since become a mini-internet within a single app – allowing users to do everything from share social media-style posts with friends, to getting news, making mobile payments, booking restaurants and ordering taxis.

Nothing similar exists in the West.

Some experts have questioned Musk’s ability or even desire to actually create such a service, but no-one can match the resources he has – he is the world’s wealthiest person – and he has experience in digital payments through PayPal and transport through Tesla which could help bring together different services in one place.

Inside the company

Musk’s public sparring with Twitter and criticism of the company in the months before the takeover has not sat well with some Twitter staff, with reports of many even planning to leave once the takeover was closed over their fears about Musk’s proposed new direction for the company.

Musk has been pictured inside the Twitter HQ talking to staff (Credit: Twitter)

Industry analyst Mike Proulx said earlier this month that ‘earning and retaining the trust’ of Twitter’s employees should be Musk’s ‘number one mission’.

‘Twitter remains an important part of our culture regardless of the ongoing drama around this on-again, off-again, and back-on-again deal,’ he said.

‘Twitter’s future is bleak without an engaged employee base and there’s a lot of repair work to be done there.’

Musk’s dismissing of the senior staff has already caused alarm among some online safety campaigners, who have warned that a shift in Twitter’s policy around safety and free speech could make the platform more dangerous, while others have suggested the internal turmoil during Musk’s restructuring could make the platform more vulnerable to hackers.

Elon Musk confirms he has bought Twitter

MORE : Elon Musk enters Twitter headquarters carrying kitchen sink and changes profile to ‘Chief Twit’

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