How was your weekend? Probably better than new Twitter owner Elon Musk’s. Under his leadership, the company reversed itself on two major moves and oversaw the suspension of celebrity accounts that mocked him. Meanwhile, Musk publicly sparred with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.
On Friday, Twitter laid off around half its workforce, including key staff who worked in moderation and ethics. But by Saturday, it emerged that the company was reaching out to some staff it had let go to ask them to come back. Some employees reportedly were cut by mistake.
That same day, Twitter rolled out its new Twitter Blue service. The $7.99-a-month subscription is a cornerstone of Elon Musk’s plans to make the website profitable. It will allow any user to purchase a blue tick, “just like the celebrities, companies and politicians you already follow,” according to Apple’s release notes.
However, early Sunday the New York Times broke the news that the “pay for play” verification check marks would not be distributed until after tomorrow's midterm elections. Many staffers were concerned that newly verified accounts could be used to impersonate politicians or news outlets, spreading election misinformation.
Meanwhile, more chaos erupted on the site itself, where numerous accounts spoofed Musk’s Twitter presence, using his profile picture and changing their screen name to match the CEO’s. In response to the slew of copycats, Musk made this announcement, which was widely mocked on the site:
He added that these suspensions would occur without warning.
Among the impersonators were comedians Kathy Griffin and Sarah Silverman. The latter tweeted, “I am a freedom of speech absolutist and I eat doody for breakfast every day” from her Musk-spoofing account.
Both women’s accounts were suspended. Silverman’s was later reinstated, though Griffin’s remains suspended. Griffin returned to the platform using the account of her deceased mother, Maggie Griffin, and tweeted at Elon Musk. “I’m back from the grave to say #freekathy,” she wrote, using a hashtag that her supporters had taken up after her suspension.
After Musk joked that Griffin had been banned for “impersonating a comedian,” she used her mother’s account to call him an “asshole” for stealing an old joke and asked him to “do a better job running this company.”
Griffin has announced that she will now use Mastodon, a decentralized, ad-free platform that is being touted as a Twitter successor. The site has more than 1 million users; more than 489,000 of them have joined since Musk’s takeover of Twitter, according to the CEO of Mastodon, Eugen Rochko.
Comedians weren’t Musk’s only problem. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder and former CEO, broke his silence on the new Twitter regime, tweeting a strange half-apology to his former employees who were laid off.
Sunday night, Dorsey went on a tear, criticizing new code in Twitter and tussling publicly with Musk. The harsh criticism was a bit of a surprise, since Dorsey had been instrumental in the sale of the company to Musk and remains a shareholder. Text messages between Musk and Dorsey this spring, released as part of the potential lawsuit over the deal, show Dorsey throwing his full support behind Musk.
Dorsey also questioned Musk’s decision to change the name of Birdwatch — which allows users to add context to potentially misleading tweets — to Community Notes.