Elon Musk publicly clashed over the status of Twitter with growing numbers of employees and fired at most one of them. This is an uncommonly obvious sign of corporate chaos following his takeover of the company for $44 billion.
Musk on Monday got into a dispute with software engineer Eric Frohnhoefer on Twitter that ended with the billionaire tweeting “he’s fired,” and Frohnhoefer confirming he’d lost access to Twitter’s internal systems. The public termination came after Frohnhoefer tweeted evidence suggesting that Musk was “wrong” about his claims that Twitter was running, in the billionaire’s words, “super slow” in various countries.
Frohnhoefer told SME Monday night that he found out about the firing when a friend sent him Musk’s tweet and said that “no one even reached out to me from Twitter.” Frohnhoefer added that he had been “willing to give it a try” under Musk and described himself as “in the wait-and-see camp,” but that “everything that has been reported is true.” He described working for Musk as a “total sh*t show” and the current state of affairs as pure “chaos.”
According to an employee’s tweet, at least one additional employee had contributed context about the topic and was also fired on Tuesday morning. And a handful of other Twitter employees said Tuesday on the platform that they were fired by an email that said their “behavior has violated company policy,” with some speculating that the move may have been a reaction to comments they made in internal Slack channels. Sources have indicated to SME that employees in recent days had been very candid in criticism of Musk in the company’s Slack. (SME attempted to reach fired employees for confirmation.
Musk responded to a Twitter comment about Tuesday’s firings. said, “I would like to apologize for firing these geniuses. Their immense talent will no doubt be of great use elsewhere.”
The firings come after Musk slashed half of Twitter’s staff and, reportedly, many of its contractors, in a manner that many critics have described as slapdash and could put the platform at risk. Musk’s retribution for those who disagree with him also comes as he has cemented his control over the company by pushing out Twitter’s top execs and eliminating its board of directors.
Musk now runs Twitter in their absence with help from Jason Calacanis & David Sacks. His personal lawyer Alex Spiro is also involved. There are also engineers that Musk has loaned to other companies such as Tesla.
(TSLA). Other than the negative press from the employees, some Twitter staff seem to have sought to contact Musk and his entourage privately to discuss disruptive changes they are making to the platform.
SME obtained an internal document indicating that staff had expressed concerns to Musk about the potential fallout if Twitter launched its $8 per-month paid verification service. The November 1 document is accurate in its prediction and offers a number of suggestions for avoiding the severe consequences that could result from a subscription. Anyone can pay $8 to get a verification check mark.
“Legacy Verification provides a critical signal in enforcing impersonation rules, the loss of which is likely to lead to an increase in impersonation of high-profile accounts on Twitter,” the document states, adding that such issues could result in a loss of trust among high-profile users. It also raised concerns that the service could result in a “pay to play” system in which key voices that can’t or won’t pay for the subscription, such as “individuals in sanctioned countries (including dissenters and activists)” could be deprioritized.
Esther Crawford, a Twitter product manager who is reportedly now leading its Twitter Blue subscription service update, was briefed on the document ahead of last week’s rollout the paid verification option, as was Musk and his lawyer Alex Spiro, a source told SME. Platformer, a digital news site, was first to publish details about the document.
Within hours of the paid verification system launching last week, Twitter was hit with a wave of celebrity and corporate impersonators on its platform who quickly gamed the system, potentially adding to growing uncertainty among advertisers, who make up nearly all of Twitter’s business. With little notice, Friday’s suspension of the paid subscription was sudden. It wasn’t immediately known when the company would restore the offer.
Correction: This story was incorrectly titled “Musk’s Criticism” in an earlier version. Musk was criticized by a Twitter user, who claimed to be an employee. However, he doesn’t actually work for the company.