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Elon Musk Warns of Twitter Bankruptcy Amid Senior Executive Exodus, US FTC Warning

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Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk on Thursday raised the possibility of the social media platform going bankrupt, capping a chaotic day that included a warning from a US privacy regulator and the exit of the company’s trust and safety leader.

The billionaire on his first mass call with employees said that he could not rule out bankruptcy, Bloomberg News reported, two weeks after buying it for $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,54,600 crore) – a deal that credit experts say has left Twitter’s finances in a precarious position.

Earlier in the day, in his first company-wide email, Musk warned that Twitter would not be able to “survive the upcoming economic downturn” if it fails to boost subscription revenue to offset falling advertising income, three people who have seen the message told Reuters.

Yoel Roth, who has overseen Twitter’s response to combat hate speech, misinformation and spam on the service, resigned on Thursday, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

In his Twitter profile on Thursday, Roth described himself as “Former Head of Trust & Safety” at the company.

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Roth did not respond to requests for comment. Bloomberg and tech site Platformer reported his exit first.

Earlier on Thursday, Twitter’s Chief Information Security Officer Lea Kissner tweeted that she had quit.

I’ve made the hard decision to leave Twitter. I’ve had the opportunity to work with amazing people and I’m so proud of the privacy, security, and IT teams and the work we’ve done.

I’m looking forward to figuring out what’s next, starting with my reviews for @USENIXSecurity 😁

— Lea Kissner (@LeaKissner) November 10, 2022

Chief Privacy Officer Damien Kieran and Chief Compliance Officer Marianne Fogarty also resigned, according to an internal message posted to Twitter’s Slack messaging system on Thursday by an attorney on its privacy team and seen by Reuters.

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Robin Wheeler, the company’s top ad sales executive, told employees in a memo that she was staying at the company, a person who had seen the message said, diverging from earlier media reports that she too would be leaving.

“I’m still here,” Wheeler tweeted late on Thursday.

The US Federal Trade Commission said it was watching Twitter with “deep concern” after the three privacy and compliance officers quit. These resignations potentially put Twitter at risk of violating regulatory orders.

Musk attorney Alex Spiro told some employees in an email late on Thursday that Twitter would remain in compliance.

“We spoke to the FTC today about our continuing obligations and have a constructive ongoing dialogue,” Spiro wrote.

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He stated that only Twitter, not individual employees, could be held liable against the orders.

“I understand that there have been employees at Twitter who do not even work on the FTC matter commenting that they could (go) to jail if we were not in compliance – that is simply not how this works,” he wrote.

In his first meeting with many employees at Twitter on Thursday afternoon, Musk warned that the company may lose billions of dollars next year, the Information reported.

Musk added in the email to workers that remote work would no longer be allowed and that they would be expected in the office for at least 40 hours per week.

Twitter, Musk and Spiro did not respond to requests for comment on a potential bankruptcy, the FTC warning, or the departures.

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Musk ruthlessly moved to clean house after taking over on October 27 and has said the company was losing more than $4 million (roughly Rs. 32 crore) a day, largely because advertisers started fleeing once he took over.

Twitter has $13 billion (roughly Rs. 1,04,815 crore) in debt after the deal and faces interest payments totaling close to $1.2 billion (roughly Rs. 9,680 crore) in the next 12 months. The payments exceed Twitter’s most recently disclosed cash flow, which amounted to $1.1 billion (roughly Rs. 8,870 crore) as of the end of June.

Musk has begun charging $8 (roughly Rs. 650) a month for the Twitter Blue service that will include a blue check verification.

Warning

“We are tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern,” Douglas Farrar, the FTC’s director of public affairs, told Reuters.

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“No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must follow our consent decrees. Our revised consent order gives us new tools to ensure compliance, and we are prepared to use them,” Farrar said.

In May, Twitter agreed to pay $150 million (roughly Rs. 1,210 crore) to settle allegations by the FTC it misused private information, like phone numbers, to target advertising to users after telling them the information was collected only for security reasons.

Twitter’s privacy attorney on Thursday mentioned in the internal memo that Spiro had said that Musk was willing to take a “huge amount of risk” with the company. “Elon puts rockets into space, he’s not afraid of the FTC,” the attorney quoted Spiro as saying.

Twitter’s buyout has sparked concerns that Musk, who has often waded into political debates, could face pressure from countries trying to control online speech.

It prompted US President Joe Biden to say on Wednesday that Musk’s “cooperation and/or technical relationships with other countries is worthy of being looked at.”

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Advertisers not reassured

Musk told advertisers on Wednesday, speaking on Twitter’s Spaces feature, that he aimed to turn the platform into a force for truth and stop fake accounts.

His assurances may not be enough.

Chipotle Mexican Grill said on Thursday it had pulled back its paid and owned content on Twitter “while we gain a better understanding on the direction of the platform under its new leadership.”

It joined other brands including General Motors that have paused advertising on Twitter since Musk took over, concerned that he will loosen content moderation rules.

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© Thomson Reuters 2022


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Elon Musk Hints at Plans to Increase Character Limit for Tweets in Response to Twitter User

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Twitter could expand its character limit from 280, according to a tweet by new owner Elon Musk. The world’s richest man and Twitter’s new CEO responded to a user on the microblogging platform requesting the higher character limit, stating that it was part of the company’s plan. Twitter is also working on adding encrypted direct messages (DMs), and payment services, according a set of slides recently shared by Musk on Twitter. However, it is currently unclear whether the increased character limit will be the same as the longform tweet feature teased by the company’s CEO.

On Monday, Musk responded to a Twitter user asking him to expand the 280-character limit for on tweets on Twitter to 1,000 characters. Musk responded, stating :It’s on the todo list.”

Twitter, which is referred to as a “microblogging service”, originally had a 140-character limit for tweets, which was expanded to 280 characters in 2017. At the time, the company’s blog stated that “many people Tweeted the full 280 limit because it was new and novel, but soon after behaviour normalised…We saw when people needed to use more than 140 characters, they Tweeted more easily and more often.”

The platform is one of the few services that limits users’ posts to a few hundred characters. Rival Facebook allow users to upload posts with thousands of characters.

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.

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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.

See also  Elon Musk Expecting Short Time at Twitter, to Find New Leader to Run the Company

Prior to that, another user had suggested “get rid of character limits,” to which Musk responded: “Absolutely”.

Musk recently announced another major change for the platform with its multi-coloured verification system. A new three-coloured verification check mark system would replace the previous ‘Twitter Blue’ service which had to be pulled off within days of its release due to rising number of accounts impersonating well-known brands and personalities while carrying the ‘verified’ check. The new Twitter Blue verification service will tentatively be relaunched on December 2, according to Musk.


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WhatsApp ‘Message Yourself’ Feature Rolling Out on Android and iOS: Report

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WhatsApp is rolling out its Message Yourself feature to users globally. The app will now let you send a text to yourself, to store messages and files. Many users around the globe rely on WhatsApp chats to jot down quick notes or reminders, or crucial information. Until now, users would use a workaround to message themselves, or use a second WhatsApp account registered to another phone number, or rely on a chat window of a defunct WhatsApp account to store messages. WhatsApp will now let you do it easily via one of its new in-built features called Message Yourself.

According to a report by TechCrunch, the Meta owned messaging app has begun to roll out the ability to message yourself. The ‘Message Yourself’ feature will be similar to sending a text to another user, except that the message will remain in a separate chat on your phone.

Once the feature is rolled out, users will see a separate chat with their name followed by “(You)”. You will be able to jot down notes, shopping lists, keep reminders, store bookmarks. You will also be able to forward messages from other users, just like you can for other chats.

You can tap on the new chat button from the WhatsApp home screen and select your name. Once you tap on it, you will be able to send texts to yourself. If you are in another app, you can also use the sharing menu to send files, images, and other media to yourself.

WhatsApp says that the Message Yourself feature is now rolling out and should reach most Android and iOS users in the coming weeks, as per the report. Users can download the latest version of the app on Android and iOS to use the Message Yourself feature.

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Recently, the messaging app also introduced a new feature that will let iOS and Android users create polls in personal and group chats to get opinions or answers from their friends and contacts. Users’ responses to a poll’s question are protected via end-to-end encryption, according to the company.

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Facebook Fined EUR 265 Million by Irish Data Privacy Regulator After Investigation Into Data Scraping

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Ireland’s data privacy regulator imposed an EUR 265 million (roughly Rs. 2,250 crore) fine on social media giant Facebook on Monday, bringing the total it has fined parent group Meta to almost EUR 1 billion (roughly Rs. 2,250 crore). The penalty resulted from an investigation, started last year, into the discovery of a collated set of personal data that had been scraped from Facebook between May 2018 and September 2019, and made available online. Facebook was also ordered to make a range of corrective measures.

Meta said it had cooperated fully with the investigation by Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC) and made changes to its systems during the time in question, including removing the ability to scrape its features in this way using phone numbers.

Monday’s fine is the fourth the DPC has levied against one of Meta’s companies. It is Meta’s lead privacy regulator within the European Union, and has 13 more inquiries into the social media group outstanding.

In September the watchdog hit its Instagram subsidiary with a record fine of EUR 405 million (roughly Rs. 3,435 crore), which Meta plans to appeal. Meta added in its statement on Monday that it was reviewing the decision related to the latest fine.

The DPC regulates Apple, Google, Twitter, Tiktok and other technology giants due to the location of their EU headquarters in Ireland. It currently has 40 inquiries open into such firms, including the 13 involving Meta.

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The regulator has the power to impose fines of up to 4 percent of a company’s global revenue under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) “One Stop Shop” regime introduced in 2018.

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The DPC said mitigating factors in Monday’s decision – which had been approved by all other relevant EU regulators – included the actions Facebook had taken.

“We’ll keep going until the behaviour does change,” Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC) Helen Dixon told Irish national broadcaster RTE on Monday.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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