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Twitter-Elon Musk Timeline: Pay-for-Verification Appears in App, Dorsey Speaks

Twitter’s new owner and CEO, Elon Musk, has wasted little time putting his stamp on the influential social network.

Immediately after Musk bought Twitter on Oct. 27, the billionaire set to work making changes to the platform. From firing executives to proposing a new content moderation council, a lot has unfolded with Musk at the helm. 

But Twitter’s saga with Musk was chaotic even before he took control. The two sides secured a pact for him to buy the company in April, but Musk later attempted to back out of the deal, leading Twitter to sue him. After months of messy pretrial skirmishes, the SpaceX and Tesla leader finally closed his acquisition of the company right before a deadline that would have forced him to go head to head with Twitter in court.

Here’s the most recent news about Musk’s takeover of Twitter:

Nov. 5: Paying for check marks, hearing from Dorsey

Pay-for-verification plan shows up in iOS update

On Saturday, version notes for the latest iteration of Twitter’s app for the Apple iPhone showed up in the App Store, with a What’s New section that pointed to the verification feature. The notes tell users that “starting today” if you “sign up now” for an $8-a-month Twitter Blue subscription, “your account will get a blue checkmark, just like the celebrities, companies, and politicians you already follow.” It appears, though, that the program hasn’t actually kicked in yet. Read more here.

Dorsey weighs in

With news reports saying Twitter had laid off about half its work force, co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey took to the service Saturday to offer words of encouragement and to place blame on himself.

“I own the responsibility for why everyone is in this situation: I grew the company size too quickly. I apologize for that,” Dorsey tweeted. He also called Twitter staffers past and present “resilient” and said, “I am grateful for, and love, everyone who has ever worked on Twitter. I don’t expect that to be mutual in this moment.”

In April, Dorsey expressed his support of Elon Musk taking over the company, but he also said that in principle, he thought no one should own or run Twitter and that it should instead be “a public good.”

Nov. 4: Musk says Twitter has had ‘massive drop’ in revenue

Since Musk’s takeover, several major advertisers, such as Tesla rival General Motors, food company General Mills and pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer, have temporarily paused their ad campaigns on Twitter. Musk tweeted that Twitter has had a “massive drop” in revenue, which he blamed on activist groups pressuring advertisers. Musk didn’t say in his tweet how much Twitter’s revenue has fallen, nor did he identify the activists. In the tweet, Musk also said Twitter hasn’t changed its content moderation policies. 

Musk also made an appearance at the Baron Investment Conference, where he noted that Twitter grappled with revenue challenges before the acquisition and that he tried to get out of the deal.

His remarks came after Twitter started laying off employees. Late Friday, Musk tweeted that there was “no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day.” Without specifying how many people were laid off or what percentage of the workforce, Musk added they were “offered 3 months of severance.” Reportedly, about half of Twitter’s 7,500-person work force was laid off.

Civil rights groups that met with Musk earlier this week spoke out about the layoffs.

“For starters, there’s no way to keep election integrity in place if you are cutting capacity to do the monitoring in #TwitterLayoffs,” tweeted Rashad Robinson, president of racial justice group Color of Change. The group is part of #StopToxicTwitter, a coalition of more than 60 organizations that are urging major advertisers to pause spending and invest in content moderation. Partners listed on the coalition’s website include the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Public Citizen, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The Volkswagen Group and others reportedly paused ad spending because of concerns that ads could appear alongside problematic content on the platform.

Nov. 3: Musk looks for ways to cut costs, lawsuit filed

Musk wants to cut costs and make Twitter less dependent on advertising. 

Reuters, citing two sources familiar with the matter and an internal Slack message, reported that Musk directed Twitter’s team to find more than $1 billion in infrastructure cost savings.

The company is looking at other ways to make money outside of advertising, including “paywalled” videos and paid direct messages, The New York Times reported, citing two people with knowledge of the matter and internal documents.

Musk is already making changes to Twitter’s work culture. Bloomberg reported that Musk has removed “days of rest” from Twitter’s employee calendars and plans to cancel the company’s remote work policy. Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Twitter reportedly told employees in an email that layoffs would happen. A lawsuit seeking class action status, filed Thursday, accused Twitter of violating the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires large companies to give least 60 days of advance notice before mass layoffs, as previously reported by Bloomberg.

Nov. 2: Musk reportedly plans to cut half of Twitter’s workforce

Musk plans to cut about 3,700 jobs at Twitter, or half of the social media company’s workforce, Bloomberg reported. Affected staffers are to be informed of their fate by Friday, sources told the news outlet.

Musk also plans to reverse the company’s existing work-from-anywhere policy, requiring remaining employees to report to an office, the unidentified sources said.

In one scenario for reducing Twitter’s workforce being considered, laid off workers will be offered 60 days’ worth of severance pay. Twitter users have been bracing for layoffs since Musk announced his bid for Twitter in April. One report indicated that Musk planned to cut 75% of jobs at Twitter.

Nov. 1: Musk suggests charging for verification

In a series of tweets, Musk floated the idea that Twitter charge $8 per month for a verified blue check mark as part of its subscription plan. The company’s subscription service, known as Twitter Blue, currently costs $5 per month but doesn’t include verification as a perk.

Twitter currently doesn’t charge to verify accounts with a blue check mark, and the badge is supposed to be given out to accounts that the company determines are “notable, authentic and active.” The blue check mark is meant to help users determine if an account of a celebrity, journalist or other public figure is fake or not.

Musk tweeted that the price would be adjusted by country and that the subscription would include “priority in replies, mentions & search, which is essential to defeat spam/scam,” as well as the “ability to post long video & audio.” He also said users would see “half as many ads.” 

Earlier in the day, The Wall Street Journal reported that Twitter Blue subscribers will lose access to ad-free articles from publishers like Vox, the Los Angeles Times and Insider. There have been various reports of different prices for a Twitter Blue subscription, with the company also reportedly having considered increasing the subscription price to $20 a month.

It’s unclear from Musk’s tweets if verified users would have to pay for a subscription or lose their blue check mark. Musk tweeted there would be “a secondary tag” for public figures, like the one now used for politicians.

The company’s chief customer officer, Sarah Personette, also revealed in a tweet that she resigned on Friday.

Meanwhile, Twitter said it has removed 1,500 accounts since Saturday for posting hateful content.

Oct. 31: Official CEO, board dissolved, layoff plans, no Trump decision yet, content moderation limited

Days after naming himself “Chief Twit” on his Twitter profile, Musk confirmed he’s the company’s CEO through a securities filing. Other changes to Twitter’s leadership are also underway. A related securities filing shows Twitter’s board of directors was dissolved the day Musk took over and identified Musk as the “sole director” of the company. 

He also reportedly plans to lay off 25% of Twitter’s workforce, The Washington Post reported, citing anonymous sources. 

Musk, who has previously said he would reverse former US President Donald Trump’s permanent ban from Twitter, is still getting questions about whether he’ll follow through on that. Twitter booted Trump from its platform in 2021 following the deadly US Capitol Hill riot because of concerns that his remarks could incite more violence. 

“If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if Trump is coming back on this platform, Twitter would be minting money!” Musk tweeted

Twitter also limited some Trust and Safety employee access to internal tools, Bloomberg reported, curbing their ability to moderate content and address misinformation ahead of next week’s US elections. They can apparently still edit or remove posts that could result in real-world harm.

“This is exactly what we (or any company) should be doing in the midst of a corporate transition to reduce opportunities for insider risk. We’re still enforcing our rules at scale,” Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, tweeted in response to Bloomberg’s story.

Oct. 30: Musk toys with checkmark changes and Vine revival, tweets misinformation

Musk has been busy suggesting changes to Twitter. He tweeted a poll about whether Twitter should bring back Vine, a short-form video app that Twitter shut down in 2017. 

Twitter also reportedly plans to charge $20 per month for its Twitter Blue subscription service, and verified users would lose their blue checkmark if they don’t do so in 90 days, The Verge reported, citing anonymous sources. Platformer’s Casey Newton reported that Twitter is thinking about charging $5 a month to verified users if they want to keep their blue checkmarks.

Musk also tweeted and then deleted a link to an article with a baseless conspiracy theory about last week’s attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in San Francisco. The article came from a website called the Santa Monica Observer. Fact-checking website Media Bias/Fact Check noted the outlet publishes right-wing misinformation. 

Oct. 29: Twitter battles a surge in racist slurs

Twitter is trying to combat anonymous accounts that started to tweet racist slurs hours after Musk took over Twitter. 

Twitter head of safety and integrity Yoel Roth tweeted that the company has “seen a small number of accounts post a ton of tweets that include slurs and other derogatory terms.” He added that “more than 50,000 tweets repeatedly using a particular slur came from just 300 accounts.”

“Bottom line up front: Twitter’s policies haven’t changed. Hateful conduct has no place here. And we’re taking steps to put a stop to an organized effort to make people think we have,” he tweeted.

Oct. 28: Twitter to form content moderation council

Advocacy groups have raised concerns that Musk’s control over Twitter would allow more hate speech and misinformation to surface on the platform. Musk has vowed publicly he doesn’t want Twitter to become a “free-for-all hellscape” but has also said that he’s “against censorship that goes far beyond the law.”

Musk said the company would form a content moderation council with “widely diverse viewpoints.” The company won’t make any major content decisions or account reinstatements before the council convenes, he tweeted.

A securities filing on Oct. 28 also noted that Twitter’s stock is being delisted on the New York Stock Exchange. Twitter, a publicly traded company, became a private one. 

Oct. 27: Musk takes over Twitter, fires executives

Musk became Twitter’s new owner and reportedly fired key executives at the company, including Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal and Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal policy, trust and safety.

Earlier in the day, Musk tweeted a letter to advertisers. The billionaire, who once tweeted that he hated advertising, now posted that “advertising, when done right, can delight, entertain and inform you.” 

Musk met with employees throughout the week, carried a sink into Twitter’s headquarters as a photo op and changed his profile to “Chief Twit” before news broke that the deal had been completed.

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