By all accounts it hasn’t been a great week for Twitter boss Elon Musk. In the space of a few day, the second richest man in the world had to deal with broken features on the social media platform, an order from the EU to increase the number of moderators working at the company, and apologise publicly for mocking an employee with a disability for a cheap laugh and firing him over Twitter.
The latter was not so cheap as it turned out; the employee in question – Haraldur “Halli” Thorliefsson, Iceland’s man of the year in 2022 – allegedly had a rather expensive clause in his contract that could have seen Twitter pay him $100 million if the volatile billionaire had, in fact, fired him. Unsurprisingly, Musk backed down.
The billionaire’s plans aren’t working out quite as he thought. After losing roughly three-quarters of Twitter’s staff in a bid to cut costs, he is finding out the hard way that some of those employees may have been necessary for keeping the system working.
The spam problem he targeted when he took over the company is still unresolved – and many would argue the paid-for verification has simply made the problem worse, with AI-generated accounts approved for the ability to get the blue badge for $8 a month. Other pledges – promises to share revenue with Twitter Blue content creators, to restore all suspended accounts, to create a content moderation council, to abide by the results of a poll on whether he should stay on as chief executive – are all pledges made that have yet to come to pass.
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And now he has been told by the EU that Twitter must hire more humans to monitor online content rather than rely on volunteers and artificial intelligence to do the job that teams of moderators used to do before Musk gutted the workforce.
It’s another obstacle in his plans to slash costs at the social media platform, and yet another reminder that while he may own Twitter he doesn’t get to make decisions about it on a whim with no repercussions. Bolstered by an army of sycophants – both real and bot – on Twitter who hang on his every word, Musk may decide to ignore that reality. But as tech companies before him have found out, that may be at Twitter’s peril.