Billionaire Elon Musk has only owned Twitter for a day but already he’s already having a volatile effect on the platform.
Multiple Twitter users have posted that they’ve been losing followers since the $44 billion (£38 billion) takeover was completed on Thursday.
It’s possible people are losing Twitter followers – described as ‘The Great Purge’ by one user – because users are deactivating their accounts in protest at Musk’s purchase.
Another possibility is that Musk has already got to work at reducing the number of bots on the platform, said to make up five per cent of all user accounts.
MailOnline has contacted Twitter for further information on why users’ follower numbers are dropping.
Elon Musk, the world’s richest person with a net worth of more than $210 billion (£180 billion), completed the takeover of Twitter this week
‘The Great Purge has begun’: Twitter users report losing of followers as Elon Musk formally takes over the platform
It’s possible people are losing Twitter followers because other users are deactivating their accounts in protest at Musk’s purchase
Another possibility is that Musk has already got to work at reducing the number of bots on the platform, said to make up 5 per cent of all user accounts.
TIMELINE OF ELON MUSK’S CHAOTIC ATTEMPT TO TAKEOVER TWITTER
April 2: Musk announces that he owns 9.2 percent of the company, making him its largest single shareholder
April 14: Musk offers to take Twitter private at $54.20 a share, valuing the company at $44billion
April 25: Twitter accepts Musk’s offer
April 29: Musk sells $8billion in Tesla shares to finance deal
May 13: Musk says Twitter deal is on hold pending a review of bot accounts
May 26: Musk is sued by Twitter for stock manipulation during takeover
July 8: Musk says he’s backing out of the deal.
Twitter sues, trying to force him into seeing it through.
October 4: Musk proposes again to go ahead with the deal at the original price
October 17: Proposed trial date in Delaware
October 26: Musk visits Twitter HQ with a sink, updates his bio on the site to ‘Chief Twit’ and sets his location to Twitter HQ
Twitter user @benjaminwittes posted on Friday: ‘Wow. People do seem to be getting rid of their Twitter accounts. I’ve lost about 700 followers, I think, in the last few hours. Are others experiencing something similar?’
Meanwhile, @hilaryluros posted: ‘I’ve just lost 50 Twitter followers. The Great Purge has begun.’
And @AuschwitzMuseum, the official account for the Auschwitz memorial in Poland, said it is ‘observing a strange decrease of number of followers’ – around 2,500 down from Thursday evening.
@DoctorHenryCT said: ‘I lost some followers last night. I’m not sure if it was bot cleaning which I doubt since Musk loves bots so I am wondering if some people have left Twitter and closed their accounts.’
Meanwhile, @jadedcreative said his followers were ‘dropping like flies’.
And @byKateSmith said: ‘Wow – I lost a few hundred followers overnight. Welcome to Twitter, Elon.’
@michaelcoren said a number of ‘allegedly progressive people’ have left Twitter, adding: ‘That’s disappointing because left-wing voices will be more necessary than ever. This isn’t the time for retreat.’
Older tweets seem to suggest that the so-called ‘purge’ has been going on for a while.
Earlier in the month, when Musk decided to plough ahead with plans to take over Twitter, US Congressman Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) said he’d lost 16,000 followers, while @SharylAttkisson said she’d lost about 6,000 in a ‘couple of hours’.
Musk – the world’s richest person with a net worth of more than $210 billion (£180 billion) – completed his purchase of Twitter on Thursday following protracted legal battle and months of uncertainty.
After finally completing the deal, Musk started his reign of Twitter in audacious fashion, by immediately firing some of Twitter’s top executives at its San Francisco HQ on Thursday.
Twitter user @benjaminwittes said he’d lost about 700 followers on the platform in the last few hours
Twitter user @jadedcreative said his followers were ‘dropping like flies’. Musk completed his purchase of Twitter on Thursday following protracted legal battle and months of uncertainty
Earlier in the month, when Musk decided to plough ahead with plans to take over Twitter, user @SharylAttkisson said she’d lost about 6,000 in a ‘couple of hours’
WHAT ARE TWITTER BOTS?
Twitter bots, also known as zombies, are automated Twitter accounts controlled by bot software.
While they are programmed to perform tasks that resemble those of everyday Twitter users – such as liking tweets and following other users – their purpose is to tweet and retweet content on a large scale.
Twitter bots can do nefarious things like trolling and propagating misinformation for purposes that include spinning elections, inciting panic, and spreading malware.
Within hours of taking the keys, he fired CEO Parag Agrawal and top counsel Vijaya Gadde – the woman responsible for banning President Trump after the January 6 riots last year – as well as CFO Ned Segal.
Musk said in May he would reverse Twitter’s ban on Donald Trump, whose account was removed after the attack on the US Capitol.
Musk had previously accused the fired Twitter execs of misleading him and Twitter investors over the number of fake ‘bot’ accounts on the platform.
Agrawal and Segal were in Twitter’s headquarters when the deal closed and were escorted out, according to people familiar with the matter.
In the past, it was reported Musk had vowed to fire 75 per cent of Twitter staff, thought to be in an effort to cut costs, although Musk denied this on Thursday, according to Bloomberg.
Musk signaled the start of his ownership by tweeting ‘the bird is freed’, in reference to the Twitter logo, followed a few hours later by ‘let the good times roll’.
Musk, who has called himself a ‘free speech absolutist’, wants Twitter to enforce fewer limits on content that can be posted.
However, he’s also said he wants to prevent the platform from becoming an echo chamber for hate and division.
Other goals include wanting to ‘defeat’ spam bots on Twitter and make the algorithms that determine how content is presented to its users publicly available.
Before closing the deal, Musk walked into Twitter’s headquarters on Wednesday with a big grin and a porcelain sink, subsequently tweeting ‘let that sink in’.
He also changed his Twitter profile description to ‘Chief Twit’.
Elon Musk speaks with employees including fired top counsel Vijaya Gadde (left) yesterday after taking over at Twitter. She was responsible for permanently banning President Trump from the site – a move that Musk says he will reverse
Musk at the Twitter coffee bar yesterday. He previously vowed to fire 75 percent of the staff – to the dismay of many senior employees
Musk posted a video of himself marching into Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters carrying a porcelain sink on Wednesday
TRUMP SAYS HE’S HAPPY TWITTER IS NOW IN ‘SANE HANDS’
Former US President Donald Trump on Friday said he was happy Twitter is now in ‘sane hands’ after Elon Musk formally took over,
but did not say whether he would return to his account on the platform that banned him.
‘I am very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands, and will no longer be run by radical left lunatics and maniacs that truly hate our country,’ Trump said in a post on Truth Social, the social media platform that he founded after being banned from Twitter.
Musk has said he would reinstate Trump’s Twitter account, but Trump previously said he would not return.
Publicly, Musk has sought to assure advertisers that his past criticism of Twitter’s content moderation rules would not harm its appeal.
‘Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!’ Musk said in an open letter posted on Thursday.
‘The reason I acquired Twitter is because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence.
As news of the deal spread, some Twitter users were quick to flag their willingness to walk away.
‘I will be happy to leave in a heartbeat if Musk, well, acts as we all expect him to, ‘ said user @mustlovedogsxo.
European regulators also reiterated past warnings that, under Musk’s leadership, Twitter must still abide by the region’s Digital Services Act, which levies hefty fines on companies if they do not control illegal content.
‘In Europe, the bird will fly by our EU rules,’ EU industry chief Thierry Breton tweeted on Friday morning.
Musk has indicated he sees Twitter as a foundation for creating a ‘super app’ that offers everything from money transfers to shopping and ride-hailing.
The deal’s road to fruition was full of twists and turns that sowed doubt over whether it would happen at all.
Musk has changed his Twitter profile location to ‘Twitter HQ’ and his descriptor to ‘Chief Twit’ ahead of a court-imposed deadline to close his $44 billion takeover deal by Friday
There’s a new sheriff in town: Elon Musk tweets on Friday morning after taking over the company
It all began on April 4, when Musk disclosed a 9.2 per cent Twitter stake, becoming the company’s largest shareholder.
The world’s richest person then agreed to join Twitter’s board, only to balk at the last minute and offer to buy the company instead for $54.20 per share.
Twitter accepted the offer later in April, but the following month Musk said the deal is on hold pending a review of bot accounts.
His lawyers then accused Twitter of not complying with his requests for information on the subject.
The acrimony resulted in Musk telling Twitter on July 8 he was terminating the deal, and four days later, Twitter sued Musk to force him to complete the acquisition.
Twitter accused Musk of buyer’s remorse, arguing he wanted out of the deal because he thought he overpaid.
On October 4, Musk performed another U-turn, offering to complete the deal as promised. He managed to do that, just one day ahead of a deadline to avoid going to trial.
The fired five: Musk culls Twitter’s top executive staff members within hours of taking control of the company
Parag Agrawal, 38
- Chief Executive Officer since 2021
- 2021 compensation: $30.4 million
Agrawal took over from Jack Dorsey when he stood down as CEO in November 2021.
Pictured: Parag Agrawal
He has frequently clashed with Musk over Twitter’s user numbers, with Musk claiming the social media platform exaggerates how many users it has and downplays the number of spam accounts, fakes or bots.
Agrawal insisted that only around 5 percent of Twitter’s accounts were bots, which infuriated Musk. Musk responded to Agrawal’s lengthy explanation of their calculations with a ‘poop’ emoji.
The pair also argued in private.
They exchanged text messages that indicated a falling out, as revealed by documents disclosed in the legal battle between the billionaire and the social network.
On April 26, Dorsey, Musk and Agrawal convened a Google Hangout to discuss the takeover, and the conversation did not go well.
‘At least it became clear that you can’t work together. That was clarifying,’ Dorsey said.
Ned Segal, 48
- Chief Financial Officer since 2017
- 2021 compensation: $18.9 million
Pictured: Ned Segal
It was Segal who, in February 2021, announced that Twitter’s ban on Donald Trump was permanent.
Musk has said that decision was wrong, and he intends to reverse it.
‘The way our policies work, when you’re removed from the platform, you’re removed from the platform, whether you’re a commentator, you’re a CFO, or you are a former or current public official,’ he told CNBC.
‘Remember, our policies are designed to make sure that people are not inciting violence, and if anybody does that, we have to remove them from the service and our policies don’t allow people to come back.’
Segal also likely irked Musk with his cautious approach to finance – in particular his announcement in November that he didn’t think investing in cryptocurrency was a good move for Twitter.
Musk is famously a fan of cryptocurrency, and champions Doegecoin.
Segal told The Wall Street Journal that investing Twitter’s corporate cash in crypto assets such as bitcoin ‘doesn’t make sense right now.’
Vijaya Gadde, 48
- Head of Legal Policy since 2011
- 2021 compensation: $17 million
Gadde, described as Twitter’s ‘moral compass’, was a passionate defender of Twitter’s role as a censor and arbitrator. She was long considered one of the people who would be fired first by Musk.
In October 2019 she was the architect of the idea to stop political advertising on the platform, and shortly before the election she played a key role in the decision to suspend The New York Post’s account when it reported on Hunter Biden’s laptop. Twitter claimed it violated the company policy against promoting hacked material; critics were angered by the heavy-handedness, and Twitter later apologized.
In January 2021, it was Gadde who rang then-CEO Jack Dorsey – on vacation in Hawaii – to inform him they were banning Donald Trump, for violating policies against inciting violence.
- General Counsel since 2017
- 2021 compensation: unclear
Edgett, a close ally of Gadde, emailed staff last week to say there were no plans for mass layoffs – a move which may have irked Musk, given the impending takeover.
‘Please note that there will continue to be a great deal of public rumor and speculation as we get closer to closing the deal,’ Edgett wrote.
‘First, we have no confirmation of the buyer’s plans after closing and recommend not following any rumors or leaked documents, but instead awaiting facts from us and the buyer directly.’
Pictured: Sean Edgett
Edgett added that there were ‘targeted cost-cutting discussions and plans’ earlier in the year, but those discussions stopped when Twitter and Musk signed a deal. Since then, there have been no plans for company-wide layoffs, he said.
He also warned employees earlier this year to refrain from sharing their opinions on Musk’s bid on social media.
A Twitter whistleblower claimed that senior figures at the company told him to destroy documents.
Peiter Zatko, the former head of security, who was fired in January, was seized upon by Musk as an ally in his fight to get to the bottom of the mystery about Twitter’s user numbers.
Zatko’s complaint, in which he accused Twitter of lying about its security practices and violating a 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, was described by Agrawal and Edgett as false.
‘We have never made a material misrepresentation to a regulator, to our board, to all of you,’ Edgett said. ‘We are in full compliance with our F.T.C. consent decree.’
Pictured: Sarah Personette
Personette worked as Twitter’s chief customer officer until she was fired on October 26.
The former CCO Personette was handed $11.2 million as part of Musk’s house clearance.
Just one day before she was culled from the workforce, she wrote on Twitter: ‘Had a great discussion with Elon Musk last evening! Our continued commitment to brand safety for advertisers remains unchanged. Looking forward to the future!’