Elon Musk as owner is a long-feared reality for Twitter employees

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Twitter employees reacted with shock and dismay on Monday when a new reality sank in: Elon Musk – the world’s richest man, freedom of expression activist and strong critic of Twitter – would become the company’s new owner.

On Twitter, in private messages and in interviews with The Washington Post, employees expressed fears of Musk’s $ 44 billion takeover. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, along with board chairman Bret Taylor held an internal town hall on Monday afternoon where executives tried to reassure anxious employees but offered few direct answers. A key concern was that Musk would try to break down security measures to protect ordinary users that staff had built over many years, according to the interviews and tweets, as well as a recording of the town hall that The Post has been given.

Some tweeted tearful emoji and memes of people having emotional breakdowns, while others told The Post they were too in shock to speak. At Monday’s town hall, leaders were vague in response to questions about future layoffs, changes in the company’s approach to freedom of expression and security, and whether the company will continue to make money on advertising.

“Understand completely that this is entertainment for some,” an employee tweeted. “But please understand that this is certainly not entertainment for me.”

“The news today is so crazy that I literally forgot I have COVID,” another tweeted.

To many observers and employees, Musk’s takeover bid seemed unlikely at first. Musk did not appear to have enough money to make the offer on his own and Twitter’s board turned out to attempts to derail the trade. But in recent days, Musk said he secured the financing through loans, and on Monday the company announced in a news release that the acquisition had gone through. The acquisition, which will be among the largest activist acquisitions ever of a listed company, will take the company private in three to six months, city hall leaders said.

Musk’s involvement in Twitter, which began this month when he announced he had acquired a large stake in the company, had already provoked outcry from employees. In dozens of internal messages obtained by The Post, workers expressed concerns that the zealous Musk could harm the company’s culture and make it harder for people to do their jobs. Observers and misinformation researchers repeated the criticism.

The company, which is based in liberal San Francisco and has more than 5,000 employees, has spent years building a progressive corporate culture that allows employees to say almost anything they want and to live anywhere they choose. . Twitter was the first company to intervene against former President Donald Trump for his tweets supporting Capitol troublemakers on January 6, 2021, and engineering teams have spent years building tools to combat spam, misinformation and hate speech during an initiative known as healthy conversations.

Elon Musk will address Twitter employees after internal outcry

“I do not know any non-engineer working on health issues who sees how this helps,” a Twitter employee said in an interview in response to questions about Musk’s ownership, referring to the company’s health department, which enforces rules against harmful content such as. as hate speech and misinformation. “Most people find it discouraging.”

Musk, on the other hand, has used his Twitter account – which has more than 84 million followers – to fight for free speech and question content moderation decisions such as banning Trump, and has been shown to mock gender pronouns. He has also been known as a tough manager who will seek to fire people on the spot when they are not in his way of thinking, including at some point disbanding his entire PR team.

At City Hall, Twitter executives and board chairman Taylor acknowledged that emotions were running high among people. But they insisted the deal was financially sound for Twitter and that Musk could unlock the company’s untapped potential, while providing few details on what it meant.

Taylor said the merger received a unanimous vote from the board, and Agrawal said there would be no immediate layoffs or changes to the company while the deal goes through. When the company becomes private, the employees’ shares will be paid out in cash to them.

Elon Musk wants a utopia freedom of speech. Technologists clap back.

But Agrawal was far less aware of the future, especially with regard to questions about whether Musk would change how the company police officers talk and enforce its rules online – and even whether the company would maintain its business model of running advertising in the long run.

Agrawal said management “will continue to spend time with Elon to learn more, and as we learn more, we will share it with you.” He also said his team would seek to better understand what Musk’s “ambitions and ambitions can be” so managers could figure out how to “best cooperate” with the new owner.

Employees seemed dissatisfied, according to chats under City Hall, which an employee described to The Post. A group of employees created a document with “questions to Elon Musk,” while others asked under City Hall if he would restore Trump’s Twitter account. Some asked if management was concerned about an employee emigration.

The company also said it would prevent employees from making changes to Twitter’s service until Friday, according to Bloomberg News, a move that could deter employees from retaliating by damaging Musk’s Twitter account.

The concern has precedent: Years ago, a Twitter employee temporarily removed Trump’s account.

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