Musk warns Twitter’s survival is at stake as staff quits

Nov 10, 2022, 9:00 AM | Updated: Nov 12, 2022, 5:51 pm
FILE - A receptionist works in the lobby of the building that houses the Twitter office in New York...

FILE - A receptionist works in the lobby of the building that houses the Twitter office in New York, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022. Elon Musk has emailed Twitter employees ordering them to return to the office starting Thursday for at least 40 hours a week and warning of “difficult times ahead.” (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Elon Musk warned Twitter employees Thursday to brace for “difficult times ahead” that might end with the collapse of the social media platform if they can’t find new ways of making money.

Workers who survived last week’s mass layoffs are facing harsher work conditions and growing uncertainty about their ability to keep Twitter running safely as it continues to lose high-level leaders responsible for data privacy, cybersecurity and complying with regulations.

That includes Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of trust and safety — a previously little-known executive who became the public face of Twitter’s content moderation after Musk took over and who had been praised by Musk for defending Twitter’s ongoing efforts to fight harmful misinformation and hate speech. An executive confirmed Roth’s resignation to coworkers on an internal messaging board seen by The Associated Press.

The developments were part of another whirlwind day in Musk’s acquisition of the social media platform. It began with an email to employees from Musk on Wednesday night ordering workers to stop working from home and show up in the office Thursday morning. He called his first “all-hands” meeting Thursday afternoon. Before that, many were relying on the billionaire Tesla CEO’s public tweets for clues about Twitter’s future.

“Sorry that this is my first email to the whole company, but there is no way to sugarcoat the message,” wrote Musk, before he described a dire economic climate for businesses like Twitter that rely almost entirely on advertising to make money.

“Without significant subscription revenue, there is a good chance Twitter will not survive the upcoming economic downturn,” Musk said. “We need roughly half of our revenue to be subscription.”

At the staff meeting, Musk said some “exceptional” employees could seek an exemption from his return-to-office order but that others who didn’t like it could quit, according to an employee at the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity out of a concern for job security.

The employee also said Musk appeared to downplay employee concerns about how a pared-back Twitter workforce was handling its obligations to maintain privacy and data security standards, saying as CEO of Tesla he knew how that worked.

Musk’s memo and staff meeting echoed a livestreamed conversation trying to assuage major advertisers Wednesday, his most expansive public comments about Twitter’s direction since he closed a $44 billion deal to buy the social media platform late last month and dismissed its top executives. A number of well-known brands have paused advertising on Twitter.

Musk told employees the “priority over the past 10 days” was to develop and launch Twitter’s new subscription service for $7.99 a month that includes a blue check mark next to the name of paid members — the mark was previously only for verified accounts. Musk’s project has had a rocky rollout with an onslaught of newly bought fake accounts this week impersonating high-profile figures such as basketball star LeBron James and the drug company Eli Lilly to post false information or offensive jokes.

In a second email to employees, Musk said the “absolute top priority” over the coming days is to suspend “bots/trolls/spam” exploiting the verified accounts. But Twitter now employs far fewer people to help him do that.

An executive last week said Twitter was cutting roughly 50% of its workforce, which numbered 7,500 earlier this year.

Musk told employees in the email that “remote work is no longer allowed” and the road ahead is “arduous and will require intense work to succeed,” and that they will need to be in the office at least 40 hours per week.

Twitter’s ongoing exodus includes the company’s chief privacy officer, Damien Kieran, and chief information security officer Lea Kissner, who tweeted Thursday that “I’ve made the hard decision to leave Twitter.”

Roth’s resignation is a “huge loss” for Twitter’s reliability and integrity, said his former coworker and friend Emily Horne.

“He’s worked incredibly hard under very challenging circumstances, including being personally targeted by some of the most vicious trolls who were active on the platform,” said Horne, who oversaw global policy communications at Twitter until 2018. “He stayed through all of that because he believed so deeply in the work his team was doing to promote a public conversation and improve the health of that conversation.”

Cybersecurity expert Alex Stamos, a former Facebook security chief, tweeted Thursday that there is a “serious risk of a breach with drastically reduced staff” that could also put Twitter at odds with a 2011 order from the Federal Trade Commission that required it to address serious data security lapses.

“Twitter made huge strides towards a more rational internal security model and backsliding will put them in trouble with the FTC” and other regulators in the U.S. and Europe, Stamos said.

The FTC said in a statement Thursday that it is “tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern.”

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

The FTC would not say whether it was investigating Twitter for potential violations. If it were, it is empowered to demand documents and depose employees.

In an email to employees seen by the AP, Musk said “Twitter will do whatever it takes to adhere to both the letter and spirit of the FTC consent decree.”

“Anything you read to the contrary is absolutely false. The same goes for any other government regulatory matters where Twitter operates,” Musk wrote.

Twitter paid a $150 million penalty in May for violating the 2011 consent order and its updated version established new procedures requiring the company to implement an enhanced privacy protection program as well as beefing up info security.

Those new procedures include an exhaustive list of disclosures Twitter must make to the FTC when introducing new products and services — particularly when they affect personal data collected on users.

Musk is fundamentally overhauling the platform’s offerings and it’s not known if he is telling the FTC about it. Twitter, which gutted its communications department, didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Musk has a history of tangling with regulators. “I do not respect the SEC,” Musk declared in a 2018 tweet.

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently examined for possible tardiness his disclosures to the agency of his purchases of Twitter stock to amass a major stake. In 2018, Musk and Tesla each agreed to pay $20 million in fines over Musk’s allegedly misleading tweets saying he’d secured the funding to take the electric car maker private for $420 a share. Musk has fought the SEC in court over compliance with the agreement.

The consequences for not meeting FTC’s requirements can be severe — such as when Facebook had to pay $5 billion for privacy violations.

“If Twitter so much as sneezes, it has to do a privacy review beforehand,” tweeted Riana Pfefferkorn, a Stanford University researcher who said she previously provided Twitter outside legal counsel. “There are periodic outside audits, and the FTC can monitor compliance.”

AP reporters Frank Bajak and Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

2 dead as bomber hits Pakistan police protecting polio teams

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — A suicide bomber blew himself up near a truck carrying police officers on their way to protect polio workers outside Quetta on Wednesday, killing two people and wounding more than 20 others, mostly policemen, officials said. Ghulam Azfer Mehser, a senior police officer, said the attack happened when the policemen were […]
1 day ago
Lauren Gilbert, a senior manager at the Center for Jewish History (CJH), participate in a global on...
Associated Press

Holocaust survivors offered DNA tests to help find family

NEW YORK (AP) — For decades, Jackie Young had been searching. Orphaned as an infant, he spent the first few years of his life in a Nazi internment camp in what is now the Czech Republic. After World War II he was taken to England, adopted and given a new name. As an adult, he […]
1 day ago
John Kraft sits next to his yawning cat, Tux, at his hilltop farmhouse in Clear Lake, Wis., Wednesd...
Associated Press

No longer fringe, small-town voters fear democracy’s demise

HUDSON, Wis. (AP) — A word — “Hope” — is stitched onto a throw pillow in the little hilltop farmhouse. Photographs of children and grandchildren speckle the walls. In the kitchen, an envelope is decorated with a hand-drawn heart. “Happy Birthday, My Love,” it reads. Out front, past a pair of century-old cottonwoods, the neighbors’ […]
1 day ago
FILE - Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., right, listens as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi o...
Associated Press

Congress prepares to take up bill preventing rail strike

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is moving swiftly to prevent a looming U.S. rail workers strike, reluctantly intervening in a labor dispute to stop what would surely be a devastating blow to the nation’s economy if the transportation of fuel, food and other critical goods were disrupted. The House was expected to act first on Wednesday […]
1 day ago
FILE - A man protests outside the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors auditorium prior to the boar...
Associated Press

Election certification delays few, but a ‘test run’ for 2024

Before November, election officials prepared for the possibility that Republicans who embraced former President Donald Trump’s lies about voter fraud would challenge the verdict of voters by refusing to certify the results. Three weeks after the end of voting, such challenges are playing out in just two states, Arizona and Pennsylvania, where Democrats won the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Today in History: November 30, birth of Winston Churchill

Today in History Today is Wednesday, Nov. 30, the 334th day of 2022. There are 31 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Nov. 30, 1782, the United States and Britain signed preliminary peace articles in Paris for ending the Revolutionary War; the Treaty of Paris was signed in September 1783. On […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Musk warns Twitter’s survival is at stake as staff quits