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Elon Musk Reportedly Plans to Cut Nearly 75 Percent of Twitter’s Workforce

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Twitter’s workforce is likely to be hit with massive cuts in the coming months, no matter who owns the company, interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Post show, a change likely to have major impact on its ability to control harmful content and prevent data security crises.

Musk told prospective investors in his deal to buy the company that he planned to get rid of nearly 75 percent of Twitter’s 7,500 workers, whittling the company down to a skeleton staff of just over 2,000.

Even if Musk’s Twitter deal falls through — and there’s little indication now that it will — big cuts are expected: Twitter’s current management planned to pare the company’s payroll by about $800 million (roughly Rs. 6,625 crore) by the end of next year, a number that would mean the departure of nearly a quarter of the workforce, according to corporate documents and interviews with people familiar with the company’s deliberations. The company also planned to make major cuts to its infrastructure, including data centers that keep the site functioning for more than 200 million users that log on each day.

The extent of the cuts, which have not been previously reported, help explain why Twitter officials were eager to sell to Musk: Musk’s $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,64,500 crore) bid, though hostile, is a golden ticket for the struggling company — potentially helping its leadership avoid painful announcements that would have demoralized the staff and possibly crippled the service’s ability to combat misinformation, hate speech and spam.

The impact of such layoffs would likely be immediately felt by millions of users, said Edwin Chen, a data scientist formerly in charge of Twitter’s spam and health metrics and now CEO of the content-moderation start-up Surge AI. He said that while he believed Twitter was overstaffed, the cuts Musk proposed were “unimaginable” and would put Twitter’s users at risk of hacks and exposure to offensive material such as child pornography.

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“It would be a cascading effect,” he said, “where you’d have services going down and the people remaining not having the institutional knowledge to get them back up, and being completely demoralized and wanting to leave themselves.”

Twitter and Musk are expected to close the purchase by next Friday. Planning for the closing is moving forward in apparent good faith after months of legal battles, say people familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. If the deal closes, Musk would immediately become Twitter’s new owner.

Twitter did not immediately respond to request for comment.

“The easy part for Musk was buying Twitter and the hard part is fixing it,” said Dan Ives, a financial analyst with Wedbush Securities. “It will be a herculean challenge to turn this around.”

Nell Minow, a corporate governance expert who is vice chair of ValueEdge Advisors, said Musk was likely shopping ambitious plans to potential investors but will face challenges in implementing his proposals.

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“He’s got to be able to show if he makes those cuts, what happens next?” she said. “What’s he gonna replace it with, AI?”

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Company executives have repeatedly told employees that there are no immediate layoff plans during town hall meetings. In the one town hall that he attended, in June, Musk was pointedly asked a question about layoffs. He answered that he didn’t see a reason low performers should remain employed.

But the new details, which reflect conversations over the last few months, highlight the extreme nature of Musk’s planned transformation of Twitter amid the challenge of making the long struggling company more profitable. Twitter has never achieved the profit margins or size of other social sites like Meta and Snap. And Musk’s plan to take the company private — freeing it from having to please Wall Street — was a key reason former CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey got behind Musk’s bid.

Musk and his representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

The months-long roller-coaster saga of Musk’s on-again off-again bid for ownership — coupled with a tense legal battle — has left Twitter battered and bruised. It faces significant worker attrition, slowed hiring, stalled projects and a volatile stock price.

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Recently Andrea Walne, a general partner at Manhattan Venture Partners, a firm that has invested in the deal, told Business Insider that she thinks Twitter is worth only $10 billion (roughly Rs. 83,000 crore) to $12 billion (roughly Rs. 99,400 crore) and that other partners were trying to get out. Musk himself said that he and his investors were “obviously overpaying” for the site during Tesla’s earnings call on Wednesday. Walne did not respond to requests for comment.

Musk has suggested he’ll loosen content moderation standards and favors restoring former president Donald Trump’s account (on Tuesday he posted a meme of himself, Kanye West and Trump each holding a sword for the social media company he owns or is in the process of purchasing).

Musk has told investors that he plans to double revenue in three years, and would triple the number of daily users that can view ads in the same period, though he’s offered scant details on how he would accomplish those goals.

Twitter estimates that its monetizable daily active users (MDAU), defined as the number of users eligible to see ads, is 237.8 million, up 16.6 percent compared with the same quarter last year. But documents that have emerged in Twitter’s court battle with Musk point to far lower numbers, with Musk’s side claiming, using Twitter’s own data, that fewer than 16 million users see the vast majority of ads.

Moreover, the time those users spend browsing Twitter declined 10 percent over the course of 2021 and only recovered slightly in the first quarter of 2022, according to the interviews.

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Gutting and then reshaping the workforce through rehiring chosen people is a huge part of Musk’s ambitions, according to interviews and documents. Though Musk has previously indicated he would be open to cutting staff — legal filings show that he agreed with a friend over text that the company’s head count wasn’t justified by its revenue when compared with other tech companies — he has not offered specific numbers publicly.

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In presentations prepared for investors and other interested parties, Musk’s optimistic business projections were fueled in part by steep jobs cuts across what was termed a “bloated” organization. One prospective investor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe Musk’s proposals, likened them to leveraged buyouts, where companies are made profitable through devastating cuts to labor and operations.

But Musk has told associates he thinks that dramatically slimming down the company is the first step to executing a turnaround strategy that would then involve bringing in more effective workers and profitable innovations. Those include expanding on new services that he has claimed could bring in more revenue, such as a subscription business where people pay to subscribe to exclusive content from powerful figures and influencers. (Twitter is currently experimenting with such a model, called Twitter Blue).

But Twitter’s own data has found that subscriptions may not bring in significant new revenue, according to the interviews. That’s because the users who view the most ads — roughly the top 1 percent of users in the US — are also the ones most likely to join a subscription service. If they began paying a monthly subscription and went ad-free, the program could cannibalize the most lucrative part of Twitter’s current ad business.

Twitter’s budget for head count — roughly $1.5 billion (roughly Rs. 12,400 crore) last year — includes many highly paid ad salespeople and several thousand engineers. The company also spends hundreds of millions on contracting firms that pay people to review reports of hate speech, child pornography, and other ugly and rule-breaking content on the internet. Some of the planned cuts were put on hold pending the sale to Musk, which was announced in April.

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The company is instituting a performance review system called stack ranking that requires managers to grade employees on a numerical curve, so that a set percentage of workers will always be marked as low performers, according to one of the company documents obtained by The Post. The move has been protested by staff members, but Twitter says other tech companies have the same practices.

Human resources staff at Twitter have told employees that they aren’t planning for mass layoffs, but documents show that extensive plans to push out staff and cut down on infrastructure costs were already in place before Musk offered to buy the company. Musk would then have built on those plans by first targeting low performers — people the company’s human resources system designated as “not on track” or receiving below a 3 out of 5 rating — before moving to other phases of downsizing.

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For weeks leading into the acquisition announcement, Musk and his attorney Alex Spiro pitched a who’s who crowd of elite investors in Silicon Valley and Wall Street on a deal that was billed as a chance not only to transform underperforming Twitter, but to work with the celebrated Musk. Not all potential investors received the same details from Musk’s team.

Some of Musk’s biggest partners in the deal, including Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison and Sequoia partner Doug Leone were also Trump supporters and self-proclaimed believers in the type of free speech ideology Musk promised to bring back to the platform. (Leone is no longer a Trump supporter but is said to take an expansive view of free speech). Hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin, a Trump supporter and the second largest GOP donor in the current midterm cycle, also committed a smaller amount — under $20 million (roughly Rs. 165 crore) compared with $1 billion (roughly Rs. 8,300 crore) from Ellison — to the deal, The Post has learned.

But many potential notable funders passed.

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Private equity giants T. Rowe Price, TPG and Warburg Pincus, who collectively control more than $1.4 trillion, all decided not to invest after being approached by Musk’s representatives, according to people familiar with the process.

And other prominent Silicon Valley heavyweights said no as well. LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman helped connect Musk with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella as part of the money-raising process, but decided not to invest himself, according to people familiar with the situation. Hoffman is a major Democratic donor, and Musk at the time was already talking about restoring Trump.

Founders Fund, the Silicon Valley venture firm founded by billionaire Republican donor Peter Thiel, also said no. Thiel first worked with Musk in 2000 when the two merged their companies to form PayPal, and Thiel’s associates have said he is a fan of Musk running Twitter.

It’s unclear whether these parties didn’t buy into Musk’s lofty projection, or didn’t want to be involved politically.

Some passed after the company’s finances and Musk’s own predicament began to look less attractive.

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One person who lost interest told The Post that he was alarmed after the market downturn and the cost of the deal began taking a toll on Musk’s finances and the crown jewel of his portfolio, Tesla.

It hasn’t helped that Musk relentlessly attacked Twitter and its leadership after announcing his takeover, pushing down its stock price. Musk’s latest turnabout only added to the sense of chaos.

“[It’s] like you bought a new car, you decided you didn’t want it, and then you crash it,” the person said. “And then you’re like ‘I’ll keep it.’”


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Twitter Under Elon Musk Leaning on Automation to Moderate Content Against Hate Speech

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Elon Musk’s Twitter is leaning heavily on automation to moderate content, doing away with certain manual reviews and favoring restrictions on distribution rather than removing certain speech outright, its new head of trust and safety told Reuters.

Twitter is also more aggressively restricting abuse-prone hashtags and search results in areas including child exploitation, regardless of potential impacts on “benign uses” of those terms, said Twitter Vice President of Trust and Safety Product Ella Irwin.

“The biggest thing that’s changed is the team is fully empowered to move fast and be as aggressive as possible,” Irwin said on Thursday, in the first interview a Twitter executive has given since Musk’s acquisition of the social media company in late October.

Her comments come as researchers are reporting a surge in hate speech on the social media service, after Musk announced an amnesty for accounts suspended under the company’s previous leadership that had not broken the law or engaged in “egregious spam.”

The company has faced pointed questions about its ability and willingness to moderate harmful and illegal content since Musk slashed half of Twitter’s staff and issued an ultimatum to work long hours that resulted in the loss of hundreds more employees.

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And advertisers, Twitter’s main revenue source, have fled the platform over concerns about brand safety.

On Friday, Musk vowed “significant reinforcement of content moderation and protection of freedom of speech” in a meeting with France President Emmanuel Macron.

Irwin said Musk encouraged the team to worry less about how their actions would affect user growth or revenue, saying safety was the company’s top priority. “He emphasizes that every single day, multiple times a day,” she said.

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The approach to safety Irwin described at least in part reflects an acceleration of changes that were already being planned since last year around Twitter’s handling of hateful conduct and other policy violations, according to former employees familiar with that work.

One approach, captured in the industry mantra “freedom of speech, not freedom of reach,” entails leaving up certain tweets that violate the company’s policies but barring them from appearing in places like the home timeline and search.

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Twitter has long deployed such “visibility filtering” tools around misinformation and had already incorporated them into its official hateful conduct policy before the Musk acquisition. The approach allows for more freewheeling speech while cutting down on the potential harms associated with viral abusive content.

The number of tweets containing hateful content on Twitter rose sharply in the week before Musk tweeted on November 23 that impressions, or views, of hateful speech were declining, according to the Center for Countering Digital Hate – in one example of researchers pointing to the prevalence of such content, while Musk touts a reduction in visibility.

Tweets containing words that were anti-Black that week were triple the number seen in the month before Musk took over, while tweets containing a gay slur were up 31%, the researchers said.

‘More risks, move fast’

Irwin, who joined the company in June and previously held safety roles at other companies including Amazon.com and Google, pushed back on suggestions that Twitter did not have the resources or willingness to protect the platform.

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She said layoffs did not significantly impact full-time employees or contractors working on what the company referred to as its “Health” divisions, including in “critical areas” like child safety and content moderation.

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Two sources familiar with the cuts said that more than 50 percent of the Health engineering unit was laid off. Irwin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the assertion, but previously denied that the Health team was severely impacted by layoffs.

She added that the number of people working on child safety had not changed since the acquisition, and that the product manager for the team was still there. Irwin said Twitter backfilled some positions for people who left the company, though she declined to provide specific figures for the extent of the turnover.

She said Musk was focused on using automation more, arguing that the company had in the past erred on the side of using time- and labor-intensive human reviews of harmful content.

“He’s encouraged the team to take more risks, move fast, get the platform safe,” she said.

On child safety, for instance, Irwin said Twitter had shifted toward automatically taking down tweets reported by trusted figures with a track record of accurately flagging harmful posts.

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Carolina Christofoletti, a threat intelligence researcher at TRM Labs who specializes in child sexual abuse material, said she has noticed Twitter recently taking down some content as fast as 30 seconds after she reports it, without acknowledging receipt of her report or confirmation of its decision.

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In the interview on Thursday, Irwin said Twitter took down about 44,000 accounts involved in child safety violations, in collaboration with cybersecurity group Ghost Data.

Twitter is also restricting hashtags and search results frequently associated with abuse, like those aimed at looking up “teen” pornography. Past concerns about the impact of such restrictions on permitted uses of the terms were gone, she said.

The use of “trusted reporters” was “something we’ve discussed in the past at Twitter, but there was some hesitancy and frankly just some delay,” said Irwin.

“I think we now have the ability to actually move forward with things like that,” she said.

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© Thomson Reuters 2022


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Elon Musk Introduces ‘Live Tweeting’ Feature Amid Ongoing Plans for Twitter

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Twitter CEO Elon Musk, on Saturday, added a new feature ‘live tweeting’ and now it is currently active on the platform.

Author Matt Taibbi becomes the first user to use this new feature with his cryptic tweet “Thread: THE TWITTER FILES”

Taking to Twitter, Musk wrote, “Here we go!!” with popcorn emoticons.

Earlier, he tweeted, “We’re double-checking some facts, so probably start live tweeting in about 40 mins.”

We’re double-checking some facts, so probably start live tweeting in about 40 mins

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 2, 2022

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Griftopia writer followed his first tweet which reads, “Thread: THE TWITTER FILES”, “What you’re about to read is the first installment in a series, based upon thousands of internal documents obtained by sources at Twitter.”

He added, “The “Twitter Files” tell an incredible story from inside one of the world’s largest and most influential social media platforms. It is a Frankensteinian tale of a human-built mechanism grown out the control of its designer.”

Twitter’s new boss is also working on “purging a lot” of spam/scam accounts.

On Thursday, Musk took to his Twitter account and shared the word limit update with everyone. He tweeted, “Twitter is purging a lot of spam/scam accounts right now, so you may see your follower count drop.”

Twitter is purging a lot of spam/scam accounts right now, so you may see your follower count drop

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 1, 2022

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Musk is also planning to up Twitter’s character limit from 280 to 1000.

A few days ago, a social media user tagged Musk and tweeted, ” Idea on explanding character limit to 1000.”

In response, Musk wrote, “It’s on the todo list.”

The character limit has been one of the prime differences between Twitter and other social media services.Musk has shown interest in the idea of increasing the character limit on a number of occasions since his takeover of the platform, as per a report by Mashable. On November 27, a Twitter user suggested to Musk to increase the platform’s word limit from 280 to 420.

“Good idea” Musk wrote in response. Prior to that, another user had suggested “get rid of character limits.”

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“Absolutely”, the multi-billionaire responded.

Now it remains to be seen when Musk finally makes the changes regarding character limit.


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WhatsApp Begins Beta Testing Android Tablet Support, iOS Testers Get ‘Search by Date’ Feature

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WhatsApp is rolling out an update for its beta testers on Android that introduces support for WhatsApp for tablets. Select Android beta testers can now link their existing WhatsApp account on their phones with the tablet version of the app. Until now, a WhatsApp account on an Android phone could not be accessed on a secondary Android device. Meanwhile, some beta testers on WhatsApp for iOS are reportedly getting access to a new feature that will allow them to quickly jump to messages based on the date they were sent or received.

Spotted by WhatsApp feature tracker WABetaInfo, users who have signed up for WhatsApp’s beta programme will begin to see an in-app banner announcing the feature. A screengrab on the website shows a banner on top of chats which reads “Have an Android tablet? WhatsApp for tablet is available for beta testers.’ The banner will be visible as part of WhatsApp beta 2.22.25.8 update for Android, which makes the popular messaging app compatible on tablets. Gadgets 360 staff members who are part of the beta programme also received the banner on their smartphones.

However, the feature tracker states that the new tablet version of the app might not be feature-complete. “Note that some features may still not be available when installing WhatsApp on your tablet, for example, the ability to share a new status update, live locations, and broadcast lists,” the report said.

Notably, WhatsApp users can access their primary account on computer and WhatsApp for Web. The feature is finally coming to Android tablets, allowing beta testers to access their messages on both their smartphone and their tablet.

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Meanwhile, WABetaInfo also reports that beta testers on iOS are getting a new update that adds the ability to search for messages by date. WhatsApp version 22.24.0.77, via the TestFlight beta programme, will make it easier for users to jump to specific dates in a chat window. To check if the feature is available, users can look for a calendar icon inside the search option for a chat. The icon lets you use the ‘Jump to Date’ feature to look for specific messages sent on the day.

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WhatsApp has been busy in the past few weeks, rolling out multiple features on both Android and iOS. The app recently rolled out a ‘Message Yourself’ feature on both platforms that lets users text themselves, in case they need to note down important information, reminders, or store files. Additionally, iOS users also received an update that adds the ability to include captions for forwarded media.


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