Timeline: Elon Musk’s chaotic first year in charge of Twitter

27 October 2023, 10:14

Twitter logo
Twitter logo. Picture: PA

In that time he’s changed the site’s name to X and sacked more than half the company’s staff.

Elon Musk has now been in charge of Twitter for a year – in that time changing the company’s name to X, replacing himself as chief executive and embroiling the company in a range of scandals.

The billionaire has also laid off more than half the company’s staff and introduced a new subscription model in an effort to find new revenue streams as advertisers flee the site, and sparked a number of controversies.

Here is a look back at some of the key moments of Mr Musk’s tenure so far.

– 2022:

– October 27: Mr Musk tweets a video of himself walking into Twitter HQ carrying a sink with the caption “let that sink in” as he takes control of the company after a protracted and often tense takeover process. Then, in his first act as owner, Mr Musk sacks several top executives.

– November 4: Twitter begins laying off more than half its global workforce by sending out blanket emails to staff as part of what the company calls necessary cost-cutting – legal action from staff around the world follows claiming breaches of employment law.

– November 9: After Mr Musk promised an overhaul of verification on the site, Twitter starts adding grey “Official” badges to prominent accounts, only for these to then disappear hours later.

– November 10: Twitter Blue, the updated paid-for subscription which allows anyone to buy a blue tick verified badge for their account, starts rolling out in select countries. It is paused a day later after a number of incidents of impersonation, with bad actors posing as verified public figures and tweeting offensive and inappropriate content. Mr Musk later says it will return once improvements have been made.

– November 16: In an email to the company’s remaining staff, the billionaire tells workers they must agree to be more “hardcore” and work longer, more intense hours in order to build “Twitter 2.0”. Mr Musk says staff who do not agree to this ultimatum will be let go.

– November 18: More Twitter staff flee the company as the “hardcore” work deadline passes and the company temporarily closes its offices around the world as concerns surface about the site’s ability to stay online amid the exodus.

Donald Trump visit to Ireland
Former US president Donald Trump had been suspended from Twitter (Brian Lawless/PA)

– November 20: The Twitter boss reinstates the account of former US president Donald Trump after asking Twitter users to vote on the issue. Mr Trump had been banned since a pro-Trump mob attacked the US Capitol on January 6 2021 as Congress was poised to certify Joe Biden’s election victory.

– November 24: Mr Musk says he is granting an “amnesty” to other previously suspended accounts after hosting a Twitter poll on the issue, allowing them to return to the site, something online safety experts say would lead to new waves of abuse and harassment on the platform.

– November 29: It is discovered that Twitter has quietly ended the enforcement of its rules which prevented the spread of misinformation around Covid-19 and vaccines.

– November 30: Amid rising concerns around Twitter’s content moderation approach, EU officials warn Mr Musk that Twitter must comply with its new online safety rules or face being banned.

– December 1: Mr Musk says he has “resolved” a “misunderstanding” with Apple after he had claimed the iPhone maker was threatening to remove Twitter from its App Store. He had also criticised the company’s app store fees and accused the company of hating free speech.

– December 2: Kanye West, who had been reinstated to Twitter as part of Mr Musk’s amnesty, is suspended again for posting antisemitic content.

Kanye West show cancelled
Kanye West was suspended and reinstated for his posts (Jonathan Brady/PA)

– December 9: Sir Elton John says he is leaving Twitter over concerns about misinformation being allowed to flourish under Mr Musk’s free speech rules.

– December 12: Twitter Blue relaunches with a higher monthly price for iPhone users as Mr Musk looks to offset Apple’s App Store developer fees. The grey “Official” badges also make another return.

– December 13: Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, an advisory group of nearly 100 independent civil, human rights and other organisations that helps the firm combat harmful content on the site, is dissolved.

– December 16: Twitter suspends the accounts of a number of journalists who had written about Mr Musk and his banning of an account that used publicly available information to track the flights made by his private jet.

– December 18: The site says it will no longer allow links to certain other social media platforms to be posted – including Facebook and Instagram, as well as possible rivals such as Mastodon. However, tweets about the new policy and a webpage linked to it are later deleted and Mr Musk apologises.

– December 19: Mr Musk says he will abide by a new poll in which he asks if he should step down as the head of Twitter. He warns users that they should be be careful what they wish for. That poll saw 57.5% of people say he should leave his role, with more than 17.5 million votes cast.

– 2023:

– February 9: Twitter is hit by a substantial outage that tells users they have exceeded the rate limit and cannot see new posts or tweet themselves. Another two outages hit the site in early March as some suggest staff cuts are effecting the firm’s ability to keep the platform online.

– March 24: Twitter confirms it will begin removing “legacy checkmarks” given out as part of the old verification system, as they are replaced by those who have paid for the verified badge as part of Twitter Blue. But confusion reigns for several weeks as blue ticks remain in place for some high-profile figures.

– May 11: Mr Musk confirms he has appointed a mystery woman to take over from him as chief executive of Twitter. It is later revealed to be NBC Universal executive, Linda Yaccarino.

– June 1: Figures from financial services firm Fidelity suggest Twitter may be worth a third of what Mr Musk paid for it in October 2022 thanks to Musk’s chaotic tenure so far.

– June 22: As officials in the EU and Australia warn Twitter over its handling of online hate content, Mr Musk challenges Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight after rumours circulate that Meta is preparing to launch a Twitter rival called Threads. Mr Zuckerberg later says he has “moved on” from the bizarre online feud.

– July 6: Meta launches Threads and hits 10 million users within hours of going live. The launch comes just days after Twitter began limiting the number of posts users could see in a day, a decision Mr Musk claims is to combat “system manipulation and data scraping” but is condemned by experts as a bizarre move for a social media platform needing active users.

July 24: Mr Musk confirms Twitter is rebranding as X and unveils a new logo to replace the bird icon that had been in place since the platform’s creation. Mr Musk has the Twitter sign removed from the company’s San Francisco headquarters, but the work is temporarily halted over permit issues. Meanwhile, the ‘X’ logo he has placed on the building’s roof is also quickly removed over similar permit issues.

July 30: Kanye West’s account is reinstated on the platform after a nearly eight-month suspension for violating its rules around inciting violence. The rapper was suspended in December 2022 for a range of erratic posts which included one image which appeared to show a swastika and a Jewish star. He has previously been suspended in October 2022 over antisemitic posts.

September 5: Mr Musk threatens to sue campaign group the Anti-Defamation League over lost revenue for the platform, claiming it and others have lobbied advertisers to leave the site and decimated its income stream.

September 19: Mr Musk hints during a panel appearance that all X users could be asked to pay to use the platform in the future – a month later the company begins a trial in New Zealand and the Philippines where new users are charged an annual fee of one US dollar in order to post on the site.

October 10: The EU’s digital chief warns X and Mr Musk over misinformation spreading on the platform linked to the Israel-Hamas conflict. It later opens an investigation into the firm on the issue, while X says it has removed hundreds of Hamas-linked accounts in response to the concerns.

By Press Association

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