Elon Musk has only been in charge of Twitter since late October. But already, he’s turned the company and its platform upside down.

Almost immediately after he took over, Musk booted top executives, slashed rank-and-file headcount by 50 percent, issued remaining employees an ultimatum to be “hardcore” in their work ethic or quit, and fast-tracked a hodgepodge of potentially revenue-generating features, including charging users to get or keep a verification check mark. And that was all before he allowed former president Donald Trump back on the app, reversing Trump’s former ban on the platform, and then declared “amnesty” for previously suspended accounts.

Amid all the chaos, it’s unclear how long Musk will even stay on as CEO of the social media company. After he ran a poll on Twitter on December 18 asking people if he should step down, a clear majority voted in favor of him leaving. While Musk hasn’t yet made any follow-up statements, he has used poll results in the past to justify major company decisions.

Musk would be leaving Twitter a more precarious company than how he found it. In the past two months, Musk has gutted Twitter’s staff, reportedly including some key engineering functions, causing concerns about the site’s technical ability to stay up and running. Twitter’s advertisers, meanwhile are reportedly fleeing the platform because they’re concerned about the resurgence of hate speech under Musk’s “free speech absolutist” policies.

And his new check mark system — Musk’s first major product update — caused chaos in the hours after its release, as newly checkmarked users flooded the app with fake accounts, impersonating figures from Nintendo’s Mario character to former US President George W. Bush.

While Musk didn’t immediately change any of Twitter’s policies against offensive content, in the hours after Musk took over there was a notable surge in hate speech on the app. Some of the users posting felt emboldened by Musk’s “free speech absolutist” attitude, and actively tried to test the limits of what they could say on Twitter under the company’s new leadership. Others have tested the limits of Musk’s free speech stance by making fun of him personally.

But it’s not all fun and games. Many current and former employees, social media academics, and human rights advocates are concerned that Musk could change Twitter for the worse, turning it into an even more intense cesspool of negative content than it already is. Sparking further concern, Musk has suspended several accounts of prominent journalists over highly debatable claims that they “doxxed” the billionaire, which many critics saw as another sign that Musk is censoring speech he personally disagrees with. But others hope Musk can breathe new life into a platform that was already bleeding its most prolific users and, for years, has struggled to turn a profit. In a staff meeting on November 10, Musk said bankruptcy was not out of the question if Twitter doesn’t figure out a way to make more money.

Here are some of the most significant ways Musk has changed the company so far.

Creating uncertainty about who will run the company

Musk doesn’t want to be the CEO of Twitter forever. He has repeatedly said he wants to give that job to someone else “over time.” But that time may be coming sooner than later as Twitter struggles to stay out of the red and Tesla investors are pressuring Musk to shift his focus back to his more financially successful electric vehicle company.

On December 18, Musk ran a poll asking if he should step down from Twitter, inviting people to vote “yes” or “no.” The results were clear: 57 percent of some 17 million respondents voted “yes.”

What’s less clear is who Musk would pick as his replacement. It’s anyone’s guess. Some floated Jared Kushner, since Musk was pictured spending time with him at the World Cup in Qatar around the time he made the poll. But Musk seems to think he’s the only one who can run Twitter, tweeting a reply on Thursday, “No one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor.”

And even if Musk were to step down from his day-to-day duties as CEO, he would still retain control as the the owner of the company. So while Musk has created a lot of chaos about Twitter’s leadership, he’ll still ultimately be the one in charge — unless he sells the company or makes it go bankrupt.

Reinstating suspended accounts

From the beginning, Musk took over Twitter with the stated goal of making it a platform that allowed more controversial speech.

A little under a month after he took over the company, Musk reinstated the account of former President Donald Trump, who was previously banned from Twitter following the the Jan 6 attack on the US Capitol. The move was highly controversial, although Trump has yet to post any new tweets, saying he prefers his own social media app, Truth Social.

Musk went even further in late November. He ran another poll asking whether he should “offer a general amnesty” to suspended accounts as long as they have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.” A day after posting the poll — and after a majority of people voted “yes” — Musk tweeted that he would start reinstating suspended accounts the following week. The move raised immediate concerns about whether bringing back users who have repeatedly violated Twitter’s hate speech policies would create a flood of abuse on the platform.

In the days prior to reinstating Trump, Musk also reinstated the accounts of comedian Kathy Griffin (who was suspended after she impersonated Musk), controversial psychologist influencer Jordan Peterson, and conservative humor news site Babylon Bee. Peterson and Babylon Bee were both suspended after tweeting anti-trans comments.

These reinstatements come despite the fact that Musk said he would wait to make any major decisions about reinstating banned accounts until he forms a “content moderation council” to advise him.

Gutting Twitter’s staff

Musk began his reign as Twitter’s chief by firing top executives. Within hours of the deal closing, CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, and head of legal policy, trust, and safety Vijaya Gadde were shown the door. On November 10, Twitter’s top privacy and security executives resigned, including Chief Information Security Officer Lea Kissner, the company’s chief privacy officer, and chief compliance officer, according to several reports. On the same day, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, who in recent days had publicly reassured people that Twitter was still following its content moderation policies, also left.

The week after he took over, Musk continued firing executives, including Twitter’s ad chief, general manager of core tech, and chief marketing officer Leslie Berland (who just a few days earlier sent a cheery note announcing that Musk was visiting the San Francisco offices). He also pulled in more than 50 Tesla engineers to work for Twitter and assembled his own circle of trusted advisers.

Soon after, Musk started gutting Twitter’s rank-and-file staff. He laid off an estimated 50 percent — upward of 3,700 employees — from the company. Twitter informed its staff that layoffs would happen by 9 am PT on Friday in a company-wide email. By late Thursday evening, several employees told Recode or posted publicly on Twitter that they had already been locked out of their work email and Slack accounts without any formal notice of whether they had been laid off.

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