Elon Musk started the year as a top Twitter user, but he’s ending it as its beleaguered owner prepares to step down as chief executive after a rocky two months at the helm.
The Tesla and SpaceX owner launched its spectacular takeover bid in April after buying enough stock to become the site’s largest shareholder, but later rejected a seat on the company’s board.
What followed was six months of public battle as the billionaire criticized Twitter’s executives, policies and stats over spam accounts – at one point walking away from the deal – before a case Looming court to settle the issue only sees Mr. Musk give in and pay the original. price of US$44 billion (£36 billion) to take control of the platform.
Before taking over, Mr Musk said he planned to change Twitter’s content moderation policies to allow for greater freedom of speech, arguing he had censored people too often, and said that would allow suspended accounts to return – including former US President Donald Trump.
The promises have raised concerns about Twitter’s future, with security groups warning that Mr Musk’s plans would lead to more abuse and misinformation on the site.
Following the takeover in late October, researchers reported spikes in hate speech and some users began migrating to other social media platforms.
Meanwhile, the billionaire set out to reshape Twitter into what he saw as a better chatting platform and a profitable business.
More than half of the company’s global workforce of more than 7,000 people was laid off, then an ultimatum was issued to those who remained telling them to accept more “hardcore” work with hours longer periods or furloughs – this has caused new beginnings.
And Mr. Musk’s moderation approach has indeed started to stir controversy because, as promised, Donald Trump and others have been reinstated on the platform, and the misinformation policy on Covid-19 and vaccines has been removed.
Then there was the botched rollout of a new paid verification feature, allowing anyone to get a blue tick badge simply by paying a monthly fee – leading to a number of fake accounts buying verification. , then impersonating public figures to spread abusive content. .
The flurry of negative headlines began to make advertisers nervous and many suspended spending with the company, which Mr Musk blamed on ‘activist’ security groups he said were against free speech .
By December, the billionaire’s ability to run Twitter was widely in question, as was the potential impact of the ongoing saga on his overall credibility and other businesses – especially Tesla and its stock price, which had since fallen. takeover of Twitter.
Following an incident in which a number of journalists had their accounts suspended for their coverage of Mr Musk, for which he again came under heavy criticism, the Twitter owner has released a poll asking users to he was to step down as head of the platform, adding that he would “comply” with the outcome.
Over 57% said it should.
After an unusually long silence after the result was confirmed, the Tesla boss took to Twitter again to question the validity of the poll and suggest that only paying subscribers should be able to vote on politics-related polls in the future, before to finally confirm that he would. resign as CEO as soon as he found someone “dumb enough” to replace him.
The question is now, what next?
It looks like Mr. Musk will lead Twitter in 2023, but his reputation and that of the site have clearly been damaged by a turbulent few months of controversy, reversals and fragmented policy decisions.
Will he be able to find a general manager willing to work under him? And what control will Mr. Musk still try to exercise over political decisions?
And even if a new Twitter chief is put in place, can he stabilize the ship enough to help Mr. Musk and his other investors begin to see a return on their substantial outlay to take over the social media giant?
Otherwise, Twitter could have an uncertain future.