Completed his acquisition of Twitter in October 2022; Musk acted as CEO of Twitter until he stepped down in June 2023 and was replaced by Linda Yaccarino. During that timeframe, the company introduced a series of reforms and management changes. Musk reinstated a number of previously banned accounts such as that of Donald Trump, reduced the workforce by approximately 80%, closed one of Twitter's three data centers, largely eliminated the content moderation team and replaced it with a new feature called Community Notes, and instituted a plan that charged personal users $8 per month to get a "verified" blue badge and $1,000 per month for an organizational gold badge. Musk has been the subject of widespread criticism from those that believed content moderation should be continued. A series of reports called the Twitter Files were released, intended to shed light on content moderation, censorship, and government influence at the social media company prior to Musk's acquisition.
Business magnate Elon Musk initiated an acquisition of American social media company Twitter, Inc. on April 14, 2022, and concluded it on October 27, 2022. Musk had begun buying shares of the company in January 2022, becoming its largest shareholder by April with a 9.1 percent ownership stake. Twitter invited Musk to join its board of directors, an offer he initially accepted before declining. On April 14, Musk made an unsolicited offer to purchase the company, to which Twitter's board initially responded with a "poison pill" strategy to resist a hostile takeover, before unanimously accepting Musk's buyout offer of $44 billion on April 25. Musk stated that he planned to introduce new features to the platform, make its algorithms open-source, combat spambot accounts, and promote free speech.
In July, Musk announced his intention to terminate the agreement, asserting that Twitter had breached their agreement by refusing to crack down on spambot accounts. The company filed a lawsuit against Musk in the Delaware Court of Chancery
shortly thereafter, with a trial scheduled for the week of October 17. Weeks before the trial was set to begin, Musk reversed course, announcing that he would move forward with the acquisition. The deal was closed on October 27, with Musk immediately becoming Twitter's new owner and CEO. Twitter was taken private
and merged into a new parent company
named X Corp.
Upon acquiring Twitter, Musk promptly fired several top executives, including previous CEO Parag Agrawal
On November 4, 2022, Musk and Twitter began laying off a substantial portion of the company's workforce and Twitter temporarily closed its offices, with The New York Times estimating that roughly half of employees had been let go. The night before the layoffs, five Twitter employees based in San Francisco and Cambridge, Massachusetts, filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that mass layoffs would violate federal and California WARN Acts. Musk explained that the layoffs were a cost-cutting measure and stated that the company had been losing over $4 million a day, criticizing activist groups who had called on advertisers to cease doing business with the company. The Times described the layoffs as "haphazard", with employees learning of their firings through a variety of means. Workers in Dublin and Tokyo received emails regarding the layoffs, while those in Ireland and Britain remained in their offices at night to await official word on their employment status. Others learned that they had been laid off when they found themselves locked out of their work applications. Twitter's internal directory, Birdhouse, was taken offline and Twitter offices worldwide were closed for the weekend. On November 6, Twitter asked some employees who had been laid off to return to the company, either because they had been fired by mistake or because they were belatedly deemed important to the health of the business.
Days after the layoffs, Twitter terminated a large number of its contractors, and Musk fired a series of employees who criticized him publicly or within the company. On November 16, Musk delivered an ultimatum to employees via email: commit to "extremely hardcore" work in order to realize Musk's vision of "Twitter 2.0", or leave. In response, hundreds of Twitter employees resigned the next day, hours before the deadline to respond to Musk's email, rendering many of Twitter's core functions nonviable. Business Insider reported that less than 2000 employees remained at the company. Musk and his advisers met with several employees to dissuade them from leaving the company, while Twitter offices were once again closed until November 21. Despite the closures, Musk summoned all Twitter software engineers to Twitter's headquarters on November 18, seeking greater insight into the platform's solution stack. Additional layoffs occurred later that month, and the company resumed hiring. Musk continued laying off employees in February 2023, promising substantial "performance-based stock awards" to employees who remained at the company.
In November 2022, Axios reported that Twitter had fired almost all of its communications team, leaving only one member. From November 2022 to March 2023, Twitter's communications team was "effectively silent" and was not responding to press enquiries, reported NPR. In March 2023, Musk personally announced a new Twitter policy: "firstname.lastname@example.org now auto responds with ��", which brought Twitter in-line with Musk's other businesses which do not have press or communications departments. During the April 2023 controversy, NPR confirmed that a press enquiry it sent to Twitter was responded to by Twitter with an emoji of feces.
In April 2023, Musk told BBC that he had reduced staff from around 8000 to under 1500.
On June 2023, trust and safety chief Ella Irwin resigned.
On November 16, 2022, Musk stated that he planned to eventually appoint a new CEO to oversee Twitter, shortly thereafter beginning the process of searching for his successor. On December 18, amid growing public discontent surrounding the ElonJet and Mastodon controversies, Musk conducted an open-access Twitter poll asking whether he should resign from his position as Twitter CEO, claiming that he would "abide by the results". The poll resolved to "yes" after 57.5 percent of 17.5 million users voted in favor of him stepping down.
After this result, Musk responded "interesting" to unfounded theories that the result of the resignation poll had been influenced by bots, agreeing with a user's suggestion to restrict future polls on policy changes to paid Twitter Blue subscribers. On December 20, he announced he would step down as CEO as soon as his replacement was selected, but would continue to lead Twitter's software and server teams. On April 11, 2023, he told the BBC that he had stepped down and appointed his dog as CEO.
On May 11, 2023, Musk announced that he had found the person to succeed him in the CEO position. The following day, he named Linda Yaccarino, the former head of ad sales for NBCUniversal, to succeed him as CEO.
On October 27, 2022, Musk announced that a "content moderation council" with diversified viewpoints would be established to inform the platform's content policy, and declared a moratorium in "major content decisions or account reinstatements" until then. The council was never formed, with Musk claiming that it was part of a deal he made with activists which they allegedly dishonored. He also signaled his intention to do away with lifetime account suspensions and unban those suspended for "minor [or] dubious reasons". Musk later stated that he would not alter Twitter's content policies or restore banned accounts until after the midterms.
On October 30, technology newsletter Platformer reported that Twitter would require users to purchase a Twitter Blue subscription to retain their blue checkmarks indicating they were "verified" on the platform, which was later confirmed by Musk as a measure to combat spambot accounts. The feature began rolling out on November 5, but was then delayed until after the U.S. midterm elections due to concerns of potential election interference. Twitter's trust and safety team assessed the potential for impersonation of official accounts and increasing the credibility of scammers with their highest risk categorization.
On November 9, one day after the United States Election Day, Twitter launched its revamped verification program on iOS devices, with all users now able to obtain a blue checkmark by purchasing Twitter Blue. To distinguish between those who had been verified before the change and those who received the checkmark via Twitter Blue, secondary gray checkmarks labeled "official" were briefly added to the former's profiles before Musk overruled the feature hours later. Instead, a pop-up message indicating which of the two groups a verified user belonged to was also added to the blue checkmark. The gray checkmarks were inexplicably restored the next day, and then Twitter halted new verifications via Twitter Blue amid a spike in impersonator accounts. The program relaunched on December 12, with Musk introducing gold checkmarks for businesses and gray checkmarks for government accounts. Musk also met with advertisers via Twitter Spaces to outline his plans to fulfill his pre-acquisition pledges, previewing forthcoming features and allaying fears of a rise in disinformation and hate speech. He also named Community Notes, a fact-checking tool formerly known as Birdwatch, as a prospective substitute for Twitter's current approaches to content moderation.
On March 23, 2023, Twitter announced that "legacy" verification badges would be removed starting on April 1: this date passed with no change, before Twitter and Musk both announced (at different dates) that the removal date for checkmarks from non-paying accounts was 20 April. The only way to acquire a blue checkmark would be through the paid Twitter Blue subscription. Around late April, the remaining "legacy" badges were removed, and only those subscribed to Twitter Blue remained. This lead to a campaign by the comedian @dril and other Twitter users to "block the blue", that is, to block every user with a blue check mark, claiming that most paying users were "dead-eyed cretins who are usually trying to sell you something stupid and expensive". The @BlockTheBlue account was suspended from the website. Several famous users, however, report having the blue check mark without having paid for it nor wanting it, such as writer Stephen King and actor Jason Alexander.
Musk began unbanning banned accounts in late November 2022, beginning with Jordan Peterson, Kathy Griffin, The Babylon Bee, and Donald Trump. Multiple anti-fascist accounts were suspended, many of which had been named by far-right figures who urged Musk to take action. Among those banned include a group that provides security to LGBTQ+ events and several accounts parodying Musk.
In November, Twitter analytics firm Bot Sentinel calculated that around 877,000 accounts were deactivated and 497,000 were suspended between October 27 and November 1, over double the usual number.
On December 14, Musk suspended ElonJet, a Twitter bot account operated by Jack Sweeney which tracked Musk's private jet in real-time using publicly accessible data, in addition to several of Sweeney's other accounts. He had previously stated, "My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk." Defending his decision to suspend the accounts, Musk declared a ban on doxxing real-time location data, and Twitter followed suit by updating its policies page. The next day, Twitter banned the accounts of multiple journalists who had been covering the ElonJet incident, as well as the Mastodon account on Twitter, on the grounds that they had violated the new doxxing policy. Some of the suspended journalists joined a Twitter Spaces mass audio call with Musk, where Musk was asked about their suspensions; Musk quit the call, and the call was abruptly ended before the entire Twitter Spaces service was temporarily taken down. Musk attributed the shutdown to a software bug, while a Twitter senior software engineer said that Spaces had been "taken offline". Most suspended journalists were later reinstated, but found themselves unable to post new tweets until their policy-violating tweets had been taken down.
By December 17, Twitter was blocking some links to Mastodon as being "potentially harmful" or "malware".
In May 2023, Elon Musk announced Twitter would delete accounts that have been inactive for several years, including accounts of dead people. This led to criticism, mainly from those who charged it would disallow them from reading tweets written by their deceased loved ones.
In June 2023 Twitter suspended the accounts of Musk/Tesla critic Aaron Greenspan and his legal transparency company PlainSite. PlainSite had released a number of Musk/Tesla related documents over the years. In February 2023 Musk had sued Greenspan over communications between the two being published.
Twitter also announced it would no longer enforce its policy prohibiting COVID-19 misinformation, and dissolved its Trust and Safety Council responsible for Twitter's policies on hate speech, child sexual exploitation, and self-harm content. This came despite evidence showing an increase in hate speech following Musk's acquisition. After previously indicating his intention to review Twitter's policy against "misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals", Musk relaxed the platform's hate speech policies, with Gizmodo describing the policy protecting transgender people as "effectively dead". In April 2023, the protections were officially stripped.
On December 18, Twitter announced a new policy barring users from promoting certain social media platforms, including Mastodon, but rescinded it within a day following significant backlash. Musk apologized and pledged to poll Twitter users before enacting "major policy changes" going forward. Twitter adopted an updated zero-tolerance policy on "violent speech" on February 28, 2023, described by The Verge as both "more specific and more vague" than the prior version.
In June 2023, Musk declared that the word "cisgender" was now considered a slur on Twitter.
Finally, despite claims by Musk, there is no evidence of policy changes that have decreased the overall number of bots, although there is some evidence that spambots have decreased slightly.
In April 2023, Twitter designated National Public Radio's main account as "US state-affiliated media", a label that was typically reserved for foreign media outlets that directly represented the point of view of their respective governments, like Russia's RT and China's Xinhua. Twitter's decision was widely considered controversial as NPR is an independent news organization that receives a small minority of its funding through government programs. Twitter's previous policy had explicitly mentioned NPR, as well as the United Kingdom's BBC, as examples of networks that were not considered as state-affiliated due to their editorial independence. NPR ceased activity on its main Twitter account in response to the designation.
On April 8, 2023, Twitter changed the designation of NPR's account from "state-affiliated" to "government-funded". On April 10, after managing to get in contact with Musk himself, NPR reporter Bobby Allyn wrote in a tweet that the platform's owner told him he was relying on a list accessible through a Wikipedia category page, named "Category:Publicly funded broadcasters", to determine which news organizations' accounts should be deemed as "government-funded media". Twitter then added the label to other sources such as PBS, the BBC, and Voice of America, which all three objected to.
On April 12, NPR announced that its accounts would no longer be active on Twitter, citing the platform's "inaccurate and misleading" labeling of NPR as "government-funded media" despite the fact that it receives "less than 1 percent of its $300 million annual budget" from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. As their last post on the platform, the network shared links to their alternative newsletters, websites and social media profiles in a thread. In an email to the staff explaining the decision, CEO John Lansing allowed individual NPR journalists and staffers to choose for themselves whether to keep using Twitter, while noting that "it would be a disservice to the serious work you all do here".
On April 17, Canadian public broadcaster CBC was designated as "government-funded media" by Twitter, in response to a letter from Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre. On April 18, the label was changed to "70% government-funded media", referring to outdated data from the CBC's 2020–2021 report; shortly afterwards, Musk tweaked the percentage in the label to "69%", tweeting "Canadian Broadcasting Corp said they're 'less than 70% government-funded', so we corrected the label". The tweaked figure may also be a reference to the 69 sex position, which Musk has repeatedly made puns on in the past. In response, CBC announced they would cease posting on Twitter, similarly to NPR.
Twitter ceased the policy on labeling state-backed media on April 21, with neither Western publicly funded outlets nor Chinese and Russian state media displaying the label on their accounts.
In early April 2023, secret U.S. military materials were leaked online. The leaked classified documents continued to be spread on Twitter, despite the social media platform formally disallowing the spread of hacked materials per its policy page. In response to a tweet about the leak, Twitter CEO Elon Musk sarcastically wrote that "you can totally delete things from the Internet" and "that works perfectly and doesn't draw attention to whatever you were trying to hide at all", seemingly alluding to the Streisand effect and suggesting that Twitter would not take down the documents.
Child sexual abuse material on Twitter had increased, despite claims by Musk that removing it was a top priority. In July, a popular far-right QAnon influencer and conspiracy theorist was suspended days after posting uncensored images of child sexual exploitation, which had millions of impressions. Musk reinstated the account the same day. The account was one of the few accounts that had been a part of direct payouts from Twitter earlier in the month.
In October 31st, 2022, Musk ordered Twitter employees to revamp multiple aspects of the program within one week, enlisting employees from his other companies such as Tesla Inc., the Boring Company, and Neuralink, as well as investors Jason Calacanis and Sriram Krishnan. To meet these deadlines, many Twitter staff members were directed to extend their working hours.
On July 23, 2023, Musk teased that the platform would receive a rebrand, dropping the name, the phrase "tweet" and its mascot, which date back to 2008. He later confirmed that the new name would be X and that if he found a logo, the rebrand would be put to effect the next day. He then tweeted a GIF of the Twitter logo glitching into an abstract X logo. The logo is taken from the Unicode Blackboard bold typeface character �� (
U+1D54F) as it is rendered on Linux systems. The change may cost the company billions of dollars in brand value.
On January 12, 2023, Twitter abruptly cut off many third-party Twitter clients' application programming interface (API) access, causing them to stop functioning. This change remained uncommented until a week later, when the company cited unspecified "long-standing API rules" as the reason for the change. By January 19, Twitter had retroactively updated its developer agreement, barring developers from creating products similar to Twitter's own app. On February 2, Twitter announced it would be removing the free tier of its API by February 9 and replace it with a "basic paid tier". Musk later stated that bot accounts that provided "good content" would be permitted to continue using Twitter's API.
On February 1, 2023, Musk temporarily made his Twitter account "private" as an experiment to test his tweets' engagement level. When the experiment failed to deliver promising results, Musk summoned a group of engineers and demanded an explanation for his declining reach. A principal engineer suggested that this was due to "easily chartable waning public interest in Musk", prompting Musk to fire them. On February 13, Musk expressed concern over the fact that his tweet about Super Bowl LVII had garnered fewer impressions than U.S. President Joe Biden's. Summoning another meeting with engineers, Musk ordered an 80-person team to address the perceived issue, under penalty of being fired. As a result, engineers altered Twitter's algorithm to boost Musk's tweets by a factor of 1000, causing his tweets to inundate many users' "For You" feeds.
On June 30, 2023, Twitter blocked unregistered users from viewing tweets or profiles on the platform. Musk described the change as a "temporary emergency measure" on his own profile, blaming "several hundred organizations" for scraping data from the site. The following day further measures were implemented with temporary limits to the amount of tweets a user can see per day, with verified users having 6,000, unverified users having 600 and newly created users having 300. After thousands of users reported Twitter issues to the website Downdetector, the limit was increased to 8,000 for verified users, 800 for unverified users, and 400 for new accounts. Three hours later, the limit was increased again to 10,000 for verified users, 1,000 for unverified users, and 500 for new accounts.
Former Twitter executive Yoel Roth said the scraping explanation "doesn't pass the sniff test," and that the incident "isn't even the first time they've completely broken the site by bumbling around in the rate limiter."
Author Stephen King, U.S. representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and U.S. senator Ed Markey criticized Musk's decision to charge Twitter users for the blue checkmark. Tweeting in support of Ocasio-Cortez, actor Mark Ruffalo called on Musk to give up ownership of Twitter. Social media platform Tumblr mocked the revamped verification program by selling a pair of functionless blue checkmarks parodying that of Twitter's. Biden expressed concern with Musk's plans for Twitter, saying that it "spews lies all across the world". After the layoffs, employees flooded the anonymous forum service Blind with negative comments about Musk, with Jack Dorsey expressing gratitude toward laid-off employees and apologizing for growing the company too rapidly. The FTC commented that it was closely monitoring developments at Twitter, stressing that Musk must abide by its consent decrees, while Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon stated that her office had reached out to Twitter to discuss privacy concerns.
On November 9, 2022, Biden expressed support for a U.S. government review of the foreign investors backing Musk's purchase, alluding to national security concerns. However, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated that she did not see a reason to investigate the acquisition and was unaware of any national security concerns. Seven Democratic senators urged the FTC to investigate Musk's rapid changes to Twitter, while pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly suspended all advertising campaigns on Twitter after a false tweet from an impersonator account went viral. Former head of consumer product Jeff Seibert expressed disappointment and frustration over Musk's changes to Twitter. In the wake of mass employee resignations on November 17, many Twitter users posted humorous messages on the platform expressing grief and anticipating a possible shutdown of Twitter, with some posting links to their other social media accounts.
Musk's suspension of journalists covering the ElonJet incident was widely condemned. CNN and The Washington Post, whose reporters were banned, criticized Musk's hypocrisy and impulsiveness, while Digital Content Next CEO Jason Kint demanded Musk explain his actions. Democrats Lori Trahan, Yvette Clarke, Ro Khanna, Ritchie Torres, and Martin Heinrich all criticized Musk, while Democrat Don Beyer also voiced disapproval with Musk's labeling of Mastodon links as malicious. Lawmakers from the EU, France, and Germany sided with the journalists and threatened to take retaliatory action against Musk.
The first weeks of Musk's tenure at Twitter have been widely described as chaotic and tumultuous by the media. Harvard professor Sandra Sucher called Musk's mass layoffs "poorly handled". Gerald Hathaway of the Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath law firm argued the opposite, believing that Musk had done what was necessary to curb Twitter's losses, assuming his claims about Twitter's losses were true. Jason Wilson of the Southern Poverty Law Center criticized Musk's perceived disinterest in "policing hate speech", observing an increase in verified white nationalists and other far-right extremists. Branko Marcetic of socialist magazine Jacobin accused Twitter of bias after several left-wing accounts were suspended. The Brookings Institution said that the importance of Twitter "as a platform for political discourse in the U.S." raised implications for national security, while cybersecurity expert Peter W. Singer detailed multiple cybersecurity concerns stemming from Musk's acquisition.
Soon after Twitter introduced viewing Tweet limits and blocked unregistered users from viewing Tweets, numerous people have voiced concerns over the decline of functionality. Mike Proulx of Forrester Research expressed on a Reuters article that the limits were "'remarkably bad' for users and advertisers already shaken by the 'chaos' Musk has brought to the platform" while Jasmine Enberg of Insider Intelligence stated her concern in the same Reuters article that the move "certainly isn't going to make it any easier to convince advertisers to return."
Japanese media reported that the limiting of viewing Tweets prompted many users in the country to abandon the platform entirely, with many flocking to Instagram, Threads, Bakusai, or Misskey.io. On July 3, Japanese game publisher Yostar announced that they would cease connecting their games' accounts to Twitter, citing the API change that had occurred a few days prior as the reason. The move has also lead to concerns over disaster relief efforts in the country, as many prefectures and cities use Twitter to share public information; with Kumamoto Prefecture's official disaster prevention Twitter account announcing that their accounts will be indefinitely out of service on July 5.