Musk warns Twitter’s survival is at stake as staff quits

Musk warns Twitter's survival is at stake as staff quits thumbnail

Elon Musk warned Twitter employees on Thursday to be prepared for “difficult days ahead” that could lead to the collapse of the social media platform.

Those who survived last week’s mass layoffs now face harsher work conditions and growing uncertainty about how they can keep Twitter safe as it loses high-ranking leaders responsible for data privacy and cybersecurity and complying to regulations.

This includes Yoel Roth (Twitter’s head for trust and safety), who was previously unknown and praised by Musk because he defended Twitter’s ongoing efforts against hate speech and misinformation. A senior executive confirmed Roth’s resignation in a memo board that was visible to The Associated Press.

These developments were part of another chaotic day in Musk’s acquisition. Musk sent an email on Wednesday night to employees directing them to stop working at home and to report to work on Thursday morning. He called his first “all hands” meeting Thursday afternoon. Many had been relying on the billionaire Tesla CEO’s public tweets to get clues about Twitter’s future.

“Sorry, this is my first email address to the entire company, but it is important to convey the message,” Musk wrote before describing a dire economic environment for businesses like Twitter, which rely almost exclusively on advertising to make money. Without significant subscription revenue, there’s a good chance Twitter won’t survive the upcoming economic downturn,” Musk stated. “We need roughly half of our revenue to be subscription.”

At the staff meeting, Musk said some “exceptional” employees could seek an exemption from his return-to-office order but that others who didn’t like it could quit, according to an employee at the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity out of a concern for job security. The employee also claimed that Musk seemed to downplay employee concerns over how a smaller Twitter workforce was managing its obligations to keep data and privacy secure. He said that he knew how it worked as Tesla’s CEO.

Musk’s memo and staff meeting echo a livestreamed conversation to soothe major advertisers Wednesday. These were his most extensive public comments about Twitter’s direction since closing a $44 trillion deal to purchase the social media platform late last year and firing its top executives. Many well-known brands have stopped advertising on Twitter.

Musk told employees the “priority over the past 10 days” was to develop and launch Twitter’s new subscription service for $7. A blue check mark next the name of paid members is now included in . This mark was previously reserved for verified accounts. Musk’s project has been rocky with an avalanche of fake accounts purchased this week, impersonating high-profile people like basketball star LeBron James or Eli Lilly to post offensive jokes or false information. In a second email to employees Musk stated that the “absolute top concern” for the next few days was to suspend “bots/trolls/spam exploiting the verified accounts.” However, Twitter has far fewer people who can help him accomplish this.

A Twitter executive said last week that Twitter was cutting 50% around its workforce. The company had 7 ,500 employees earlier this year.

Musk informed employees via email that “remote working is not allowed” and that the road ahead is “arduous, and will require intense effort to succeed.” They will need to be present at least 40 hours per work week.

Twitter’s ongoing exodus includes the company’s chief privacy officer, Damien Kieran, and chief information security officer Lea Kissner, who tweeted Thursday that “I’ve made the hard decision to leave Twitter.”

Roth’s resignation is a “huge loss” for Twitter’s reliability and integrity, said his former coworker and friend Emily Horne.

“He worked incredibly hard in very difficult circumstances, including being personally attacked by some of the most vicious spammers on the platform,” Horne, who was responsible for global policy communications at Twitter from 2018., said. “He persevered through all of it because he believed so strongly in the work his team was doing for public conversation and improving the health of that conversation. “

Cybersecurity expert Alex Stamos, a former Facebook security chief, tweeted Thursday that there is a “serious risk of a breach with drastically reduced staff” that could also put Twitter at odds with a 2011 order from the Federal Trade Commission that required it to address serious data security lapses.

“Twitter has made great strides towards a more rational security model, and any backsliding will cause them to be in trouble with the FTC and other regulators in Europe and the U.S., Stamos stated.

The FTC stated in a statement that it is “watching recent developments at Twitter with great concern.”

“No CEO is above the law and companies must comply with our consent decrees,” stated the agency in a statement. “Our revised consent order gives new tools to ensure compliance .”

The FTC did not say whether it was looking into Twitter for possible violations. If it was, it can demand documents and depose employees.

In an email to employees seen by the AP, Musk said “Twitter will do whatever it takes to adhere to both the letter and spirit of the FTC consent decree.”

“Anything you read to the contrary is absolutely false. Musk stated that the same applies to any other government regulatory matters in which Twitter operates.

Twitter was fined $150million in May for violating the 2011 consent orders. The updated version of the consent orders established new procedures that required the company to create a better privacy protection program and increase info security. These new procedures include a comprehensive list of disclosures Twitter must provide to the FTC whenever they introduce new products or services, especially when they affect personal information.

Musk has been fundamentally reorganizing the platform’s offerings. It’s not known if the FTC is aware of it. Twitter, which has sacked its communications department, did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Musk is known for tangles with regulators. Musk stated in a 2018 Tweet that he does not respect the SEC.

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently reviewed his disclosures to the agency regarding his purchases of Twitter stock in order to acquire a large stake. In 2018, Musk and Tesla each agreed to pay $20 million in fines over Musk’s allegedly misleading tweets saying he’d secured the funding to take the electric car maker private for $420 a share. Musk has sued the SEC in court to challenge the agreement.

Failure to comply with FTC’s requirements can have severe consequences, such as when Facebook was forced to pay $5 billion for privacy violations.

“If Twitter even sneezes it must do a privacy review before,” tweeted Riana Pefferkorn, a Stanford University researcher, who stated that she had previously provided outside legal counsel to Twitter. “There are periodic outside audits, and the FTC can monitor compliance.”

AP reporters Frank Bajak and Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.

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