Elon Musk became Twitter Inc's new owner on Thursday. Since then news regarding massive staff cuts have been doing the rounds. Some pranksters even tried to hog the limelight. Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal/Gulf News

San Francisco: After months of controversy, Elon Musk is now at the head of one of the most influential social networks on the planet, whose "tremendous potential" he has promised to unleash.

What changes can we expect for the platform from the multi-billionaire chief executive of Tesla and founder of SpaceX?

New boss

One of Musk's first decisions was to sack Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal and head of legal affairs Vijaya Gadde, according to several US media outlets.

The billionaire entrepreneur will have to find replacements for them.

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"Musk is in the unenviable position of convincing seasoned executives to work for him at a platform that he has publicly disparaged," said Jasmine Enberg, an analyst for Insider Intelligence.

According to Bloomberg, Musk will assume the role of CEO of Twitter, at least initially.

He'll have to deal with concerned employees. Musk wants to cut the workforce by 75 per cent (or about 5,500 employees), according to the Washington Post.

"The mood at Twitter is tense, with employees worried about layoffs," said Enberg. "Product and even engineering teams could face a shakeup."

Freedom of speech

A self-described "free speech absolutist," Musk said on Thursday that he wants to turn Twitter into a platform that is "warm and welcoming to all" and not a "free-for-all hellscape."

He has criticised what he sees as aggressive content moderation, which he contends results in the censorship of right and far-right voices.

"Experts we've spoken with have suggested around 600 people at Twitter itself and thousands more with third-party affiliations have worked on platform content moderation," said Scott Kessler of Third Bridge.

"Musk has publicly advocated for these actions to be driven by algorithms instead of people," he added.

Musk on Fruday stated: "To be super clear, we have not yet made any changes to Twitter's content moderation policies"

Return of Trump?

The Tesla boss further hinted that former US president Donald Trump, who was suspended from the platform after the attack on Capitol Hill in early 2021, might be allowed to return.

Trump wrote on Friday on his own social network Truth Social that Twitter is "in good hands."

One of Musk's other pet peeves is the issue of fake accounts. He threatened to walk away from the deal over the inauthentic or "bot" accounts but has not revealed what he will do to fight them.

'Unpalatable to advertisers'

Another challenge for Elon Musk is to improve the financial health of Twitter, which faces slow growth, even recording a net loss in the second quarter.

In April, Musk mentioned options to generate more revenue: boosting paid subscriptions, monetising the dissemination of popular tweets or paying content creators.

In a letter published Thursday, the entrepreneur called on Twitter advertisers to work together to "build something extraordinary," stressing the importance of welcoming a wide diversity of opinions on the platform.

"Mr. Musk has indicated in his latest publicity stunt that he wants to throw the kitchen sink at Twitter to attract new users," noted Susannah Streeter, senior investment and market analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"But he is going to face a huge challenge of maintaining and building revenue, given that the controversial opinions he appears to want to give more of a free rein to in this 'global town hall' are often unpalatable to advertisers," she said.

Late on Friday (October 28) General Motors Co said it had temporarily halted paid advertising on Twitter after Musk completed his takeover.  The largest U.S. automaker said it was "engaging with Twitter to understand the direction of the platform under their new ownership."

Musk is also chief executive of GM rival Tesla Inc. The Detroit automaker added its "customer care interactions on Twitter will continue."


Some civic groups are also calling on major brands to use their influence to prevent Musk from providing a platform for the most radical speech.

"Considering that ads reportedly account for 90 per cent of Twitter's revenue, it is clear that the power to hold Musk accountable, if he rolls back the platform's protections against harassment, abuse and disinformation, lies in the hands of Twitter's top advertisers," Media Matters for America, a nonprofit watchdog group, argued.

Ad sales accounted for more than 90 per cent of Twitter's revenue in the second quarter. At a presentation for advertisers in May, some ad agencies and brands were already skeptical and concerned over Twitter's future.

Musk appealed directly to advertisers in an open-letter tweet: "Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!... Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world that strengthens your brand and grows your enterprise."

Musk tweeted on Friday that Twitter will form a content moderation council "with widely diverse viewpoints." Musk said no major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before the council convenes.