Elon’s Bad Decision and Twitter’s Downfall


On October 27, 2022,  Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, became the owner and CEO of Twitter through a $44 billion deal. Musk claimed that he would improve Twitter by making the algorithm open-sourced, combat spambots and promote free speech. But as he continues to run Twitter as CEO, the longevity of the company comes into question as the company now may be risking bankruptcy and irrelevancy. 

 Musk’s intention to buy the company started in 2017 when he replied to a tweet suggesting he would buy Twitter. He began to purchase Twitter stock on January 31, 2022. Then, in late March of 2022, Musk discussed the possibility of joining Twitter’s Board of Directors with former CEO and co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey.  Elon would then share his ideas of privatizing or making a rival company to Twitter to the CEO at the time, Parag Agrawal and board chair Bret Taylor. In April, Musk announced he had  9.2% or $2.64 billion in Twitter stocks. He was then invited to join the company’s Board of Directors and as such could hold no more than a 14.9% stake in the company. 

On April 14, 2022 Elon Musk tweeted a  vague screenshot of  Twitter stock analysis paired with a thinking emoji, then an hour later, tweeted out a link to his offer to buy the company outright. In his own words, “I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy. However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.”  The response to his tweets were varied with individuals, especially Republicans, proclaiming that Elon would help Twitter remain relevant, bring about greater free speech and bring a needed change to social media in general. Republicans on Twitter have long lamented the fact that Twitter censored conservative viewpoints and felt that this was a necessary change. On the other hand, others expressed the fear that Elon would actually bring about more censorship as he was known to mute critics on his own tweets and these individuals were worried this trend would continue on a larger scale. They also feared that the “free speech” mentioned would actually bring about a greater tolerance of hate speech towards minority groups.

On May 13, Musk announced he had put the acquisition of Twitter on hold due to the number of spam accounts.  CEO Agrawal tweeted out in a thread that an external review of the platform’s users was impractical and Elon responded with a poop emoji. Elon asked the company to hand over data pertaining to its users so he could see how many spam accounts were being removed. On July 7th, the company replied saying they removed a million spam accounts daily and that it was impossible to determine the exact number without the use of private user data. 

Musk was originally going to fund his deal partially with Tesla stock but, because of the dropping in shares, opted instead for equity financing. This caused him to be sued by Twitter investor William Heresniak who alleged that Elon violated California corporate laws of market manipulation by causing the 12% drop in Twitter stock.  This would not be the only time he was sued by the Twitter team as on July 8th, Musk announced that he planned to terminate the agreement as he claimed Twitter had breached their agreement due to not cracking down hard enough on spam accounts. However, many are skeptical of this and believe that the true cause of his termination is because he could no longer justify buying Twitter. This in turn caused the company to file a lawsuit against Elon Musk in the Delaware Court of Chancery with a trial scheduled for October 17th  for “bad faith” conduct. They claimed that the reason he was backing out was because he saw a decline in his own personal wealth with the economic downturn of Tesla and SpaceX stocks instead of spam bots as he had agreed to provide $33 billion of the $44.  Elon offered Twitter reduced prices to drop the lawsuit but the company declined. As the date of the trial loomed near, he paid the original price to get the lawsuit dropped. When Twitter and Elon Musk finally closed the deal, Elon Musk promptly fired the CEO,  chief financial officer, top legal and policy executive, General Counsel and dissolved the Board of Directors. He then assumed the role as CEO; this would not be the last time he was sued, as during the month of November, as he was sued by multiple ex-employees for his conduct. Some include violating the WARN act and not giving notice for mass layoffs and violating the ADA by not accommodating for disabled workers. 

Despite being the CEO of major tech companies, Musk seems to know nothing about computer engineering. The day he took over, he asked software engineers to print out  30 to 60 days worth of their code to be checked by Tesla engineers, an automotive company. Many Twitter users criticized this move as they believed these Tesla checkers to be automotive engineers instead of software engineers. They felt that it was a poor way of doing a check as automotives and software are not comparable in the slightest. Many also criticized the fact that the employees were asked to print out the code in the first place and claimed this showed the new CEO’s lack of understanding.  Twitter users familiar with software engineering said that Musk could have checked the code digitally. Others were appalled by this action as code is written by teams rather than individual people.  

To top this all off, he fired employees based on their line of code count, keeping engineers who wrote more LOC. Any programmer can tell you this is dangerous as the quality of code matters more rather than the quantity. More effective programmers utilize less lines of code as it takes up less memory space. In fact, they may even delete old lines of code. Not to mention, software engineers  in especially difficult fields such as cybersecurity would write less code than an average programmer due to the difficulty of the task. . 

Elon Musk fired employees en masse, without notice in order to cut costs. As said earlier, he was sued over this action as it violated the WARN act. But  on top of that, he also fired employees who criticized him. This is nothing new: Musk previously did the same thing to nine SpaceX employees. Not to mention, the National Labor Relations Board found Musk guilty of unfair labor practices for firing workers trying to unionize at Tesla and having unlawful employee contracts. On November 16, many employees complained on account of their personal mistreatment, and, as such, Musk delivered an ultimatum to employees over email causing a mass resignation within the company. At that point in time, Twitter lost over 50% of its workforce but Musk still continued with the layoffs even after this significant decrease.  

Many began to question if Elon Musk was actually an advocate of free speech as he relentlessly fired employees who criticize him. As many people feared, Musk began to suspend and play with accounts that openly mocked and criticized him including New York representative Alexandia Ocasio-Cortez.  The day after their online spat, AOC accused Musk of sabotaging her Twitter account as it was no longer working properly and looked different compared to the day before. Many Twitter users testified that they were told to delete tweets criticizing or poking fun at the CEO. Some alleged that they got suspended or flagged for “hateful conduct” due to this.  Elon had tweeted out “comedy is now legal” on the day he acquired Twitter except that did not apply to comedy and parody at his expense.  Tesla, SpaceX and Elon Musk impersonators and parody accounts were suspended or restricted. Musk then announced that parody accounts had to be explicitly marked as such or risk suspension, however some accounts that were explicit with this were still suspended or restricted. The reason this is so controversial is the fact that Musk claims he is a “free speech absolutist” and said that “I hope even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.” 

After Musk took over, Twitter saw a rise in hate speech. In the first week, a racial slur used against Black people was used 26,228 times, triple the Twitter average in 2022. A slur against transgender people saw a 53% uptick from the 2022 average as well. Overall, this was a 500% spike of hate speech from before and after Elon’s takeover in just 12 hours, said the Network Contagion Research Institute.  Musk claimed there was in actuality, a decline. Not to mention, he unbanned Trump, known for his falsehoods and violence-inciting behavior on Twitter,  and The Babylon Bee, a conservative Christan news outlet known for fake news, and suspended multiple anti-fascist accounts. 

Twitter is losing $4 million a day according to CEO Elon Musk. To remedy this he tried to implement Twitter Blue, a system where people could pay $8 a month for a verification badge so the company would no longer rely on advertisement as their sole source of income.  Verified users will be able to get prioritized in replies, mentions and searches, see fewer ads and post longer videos.  Twitter was already losing money, but after the deal where Musk purchased the company using loaned money from banks, he added a new source of debt burden which requires a fresh source of income. It is tough to determine how much debt the company is in as Twitter no longer has to file regular financial reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission however analysts are able to make a rough estimate, which shows the company’s prospects do not look good. The company now has $9 billion in floating debt when it used to have  $592.5 million in June with a fixed rate. Economists are worried that it will lead to bankruptcy. Twitter has not made a profit since 2019 because of its failure to attract new users. Twitter’s main source of revenue is from advertisements. The downturn is caused partly by decline in the digital advertising market in general and several companies pausing ad spending or withdrawing from Twitter since he bought the company. For example, Chipotle, General Mills, and United Airline Holdings. Twitter Blue caused so much backlash, as verification badges used to be free but elusive. Out of 2 million users who responded, only 18.5% replied they would like to pay for a check mark. Other sites have mocked Twitter for this, for example Tumblr, implemented “an Important Blue Internet Checkmark” for 2 at $8.99. 

Due to the ease of being verified, fake and parody twitter accounts of brands, celebrities and companies to be verified, including himself, and in turn ruin the reputation of  companies and people. This verification system  backfired in terms of getting more revenue, but worked in terms of no longer relying on advertisers as many companies and brands are backing out due to ease of impersonation. One of the companies that saw a sharp drop in stocks was Eli Lilly, who had to publicly issue an apology due to the fake account spreading satirical tweets on his market pricing of insulin. Lilly executives have now stopped all Twitter ad campaigns. Huge corporate giants like Apple and McDonald’s are likely to pause Twitter advertisements as well since Omnicom Media Group, their ad firm, said that the “risk to our clients’ brand safety has risen sharply to a level most would find unacceptable.”  People like Senator Bernie Sanders have used these fake accounts to call attention to social issues like the high rate of insulin, a life saving drug. This will create more revenue loss for the company and other such companies, leading to them pulling funding to the company, and maybe even leaving entirely. As of now, Twitter Blue was suspended November 11 and pushed to be re-released on November 29 but no such thing has happened yet. Most likely it will be re-introduced some time in the coming months but Elon will create a way to separate parody and official accounts like the “Parody” tags Musk suggested or the “Official” tags the company removed. 

People are still unhappy, finding new things to complain about the Twitter experience. Many users, such as pop star Doja Cat, had trouble changing their twitter handle. Others said they had bought Twitter Blue but did not receive the blue check mark. Kevin Long, creator of Social Imposter, says it is taking Twitter too long to suspend fake accounts as  it takes days, but now it is taking weeks. There were also complaints about the user interface and new look of the social media app. People had found that the app was confusing to navigate however that does not seem to be an issue in the web version. 

 Because of Elon Musk’s rashness, Twitter may become like MySpace–long forgotten to the sands of time, a barren wasteland, once king of social media. People are fleeing Twitter to go to other websites like Instagram or Tumblr, accelerating the downfall of the company. With Musk’s antagonistic behavior towards advertisers, users and employees alike, it is only a matter of time before the collapse of the company.  As for the man himself, it’ll be a miracle if he still has his billion-dollar fortune.



Image Credits: Jim Watson/AFP/ (collage by TechCrunch) / Getty Images