Musk fires Twitter board, launches subscription service, resurrects Vine

PHOTO: Elon Musk has taken swift actions after officially taking over Twitter. (via Brain Station)

Elon Musk isn’t doing much to quell the fears of Twitter users, advertisers, and investors about his takeover causing chaos. In fact, now that he has officially become the legal owner of the popular social media site, he has launched a barrage of new actions that have left advertisers and executives reeling.

It is rumoured that Musk plans to lay off 75% of Twitter’s 7,500 employees. Though unconfirmed, one of his first actions as the new owner was to fire the entire Board of the company, including CEO Parag Agrawal. His mass layoffs may prove costly though, as the executive have a nine-figure departure package plan, and many employees down the chain will have to be compensated for sudden layoffs.

Upon the consummation of the merger on October 27 – officially filed yesterday with the US Securities and Exchange Commission – Musk, the world’s richest man, took control of Twitter after a drawn-out buying process that began in April. The takeover was completed at US$54.20 per share last week with Musk spending US$44 billion to acquire the social media site.

The money for the purchase was made up of his cash, investment groups, and bank loans that require repayment. Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal also dumped his nearly 35 million shares into the acquisition, quietly becoming the second largest shareholder in Twitter, after Musk. He posted a tweet tagging Elon Musk and declaring that they were “together all the way” after the takeover.

Aside from the employment shake-up, Musk plans to remove Twitter from the public market which will allow the company to operate more opaquely. They won’t need to disclose information publicly. He also called for the before-its-time Twitter-owned app Vine to be relaunched. Vine was essentially “TikTok before TikTok,” launching in 2012 and allowing users to upload six-second videos that many elevated to an art form. It closed four years ago but Musk is attempting to resurrect it.

Another controversial plan already beginning testing is the increased monetisation from verified accounts. Elon Musk seems convinced that verified Twitter users would easily shell out US$20 a month to maintain that coveted blue check mark. There is currently a US$5-a-month subscription service called Twitter Blue, and reports suggest that Musk would require a subscription for a user to be verified, and that subscription prices would quadruple.

But the biggest change that users are apprehensive of is the content moderation policy. While Musk said he didn’t want Twitter to be a “free-for-all hellscape,” racial slurs and conspiracy theories have spiked exponentially as users test the waters of what they can get away with.

Musk promised a new Content Moderation Council, but advertisers are spooked. Elon flew to New York yesterday to meet with some advertisers in an attempt to reassure them that his extreme restructuring and volatility – including himself posting many conspiracy theory memes, most recently linking to a far-right extremist site the claims that Hillary Clinton died in the September 11th attacks in 2001 – was not going to affect their bottom line.

Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.