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  • Writer's pictureDavid Baker

Elon plays Scrooge

Just in time for Christmas, gazillionaire Elon Musk bought himself the ultimate holiday present, social media giant Twitter. But since the purchase closed a couple of months, Musk’s Twitter purchase has proven to be “the gift that keeps on giving” when it comes to news stories, each one topping the last with its level of absurdity.

Indeed, in the space of just the last few weeks, it seems that Twitter is being run less like Santa’s Workshop, where hordes of elves busy themselves assembling toys and other goodies for deserving children, and more like Arkham Asylum with The Joker in charge.

Twitter Votes to Oust Musk as Leader

Twitter users have voted to leave a lump of coal in the social media giant’s holiday stocking, voting to replace Elon Musk as CEO. It seems unlikely Musk will be replaced anytime soon, but the vote, entirely symbolic, is only the latest controversy arising from Musk’s takeover of Twitter earlier this year.

More than half of 17.5 million Twitter users who responded to a poll that asked whether Elon Musk should step down as head of the social media platform voted in favor of him doing so, according to results posted Monday morning. Roughly 57% of them voted "Yes," while 43% voted "No" against Musk stepping down as chief of the micro-blogging platform after the billionaire launched the poll on his Twitter account Sunday.

Neither Twitter or Musk immediately responded publicly about whether Musk would step down, but the Tesla and SpaceX CEO initially said that he would abide by the results.

Twitter Blue Relaunched, then Suspended

In an on again-off again move, Twitter relaunched its subscription service Twitter Blue, with “official” users confirmed by a blue checkmark (or is it now gold checkmark?) for a fee of $8 a month. Of course, this immediately met resistance and Twitter promptly cancelled the service when several high-profile comedians purchased “official” accounts as Elon Musk. After temporarily scrapping the paid checkmark feature, Musk explained in a tweet that the subscription would only relaunch when there is a “high confidence of stopping impersonation.”

Twitter Dissolved its Trust and Safety Council

At Musk’s insistence, Twitter disbanded the advisory group of around 100 independent civil, human rights and other organizations that the company formed in 2016 to address hate speech, child exploitation, suicide, self-harm and other problems on the platform.

The council had been scheduled to meet with Twitter representatives, but Twitter informed the group via email that it was disbanding it shortly before the meeting was to take place, according to multiple members.

The council members, who provided images of the email from Twitter to The Associated Press, spoke on the condition of anonymity due to fears of retaliation. The email said Twitter was “reevaluating how best to bring external insights” and the council is “not the best structure to do this.”

Twitter Layoffs Continue

Twitter employees are expecting the company to cut 50% of its workforce, or roughly 3,700 employees and, in response, a group of Twitter employees has filed a lawsuit under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act which requires employers to provide advance notice, generally within 60 days, of mass layoffs or plant closings.

The lawsuit asks the court to issue an order requiring Twitter to obey the WARN Act. It also seeks to prevent Twitter from soliciting employees to sign documents that could give up their right to participate in litigation.

In response, Musk has tweeted, “Regarding Twitter’s reduction in force, unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day. Everyone exited was offered 3 months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required.”

Users, Advertisers Abandon Twitter

So far, Twitter has lost a considerable number of users (millions by most estimates), but it’s the loss of advertisers that seems to be hurting the company the most. Advertising ireally is the only way a social media company can hope to (eventually) turn a profit. Without them, there is no social media company even if users remain.

According to a report from nonprofit watchdog group Media Matters for America, 50 of the platform's top 100 advertisers, which have accounted for about $2 billion in spending since 2020, "have either announced or seemingly stopped advertising" in recent weeks. These companies had brought in over $750 million in advertising just in 2022, said the report, which relied on data current as of November 21.

Chevrolet, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Ford and Jeep are among the companies that have either issued a statement or have been publicly reported as recently stopping their advertising on the site, the report said.

Why It Matters.

Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Elon Musk does get things done.

Just look at Tesla, Musk’s electric vehicle company that has saturated the automobile market with electric vehicles and completely changed the way Americans think about the future of transportation. Or look at SpaceX, a rocket launch company that now routinely ends payloads into orbit and returns the launch vehicles back to Earth to be reused on future missions.

When Musk first announced plans to send Earthlings to Mars as permanent inhabitants of the Red Planet, most observers scoffed and said it couldn’t be done. Now, it sure seems a much stronger possibility of not a real probability.

But when it comes to Twitter, Musk has been far less transparent when it comes to his plans or even his hopes for social media. As such, we may have to just sit back and enjoy the show.

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