5 things happening on Twitter you need to know about

21 Nov 2022

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From Donald Trump’s return and a rise in piracy to more Twitter layoffs coming this week, there’s a lot going on. See what’s happening.

It’s a little over three weeks since Elon Musk took over Twitter and the bird is far from freed.

The platform is functioning with about a third of the employees it had before Musk came on board – the result of a mass layoff followed by a mass exodus – and there are reports of further layoffs to be made as soon as today (21 November).

With reports that the platform could break under these conditions, and speculation over whether it will outlast this lettuce, here are five things you need to know about Twitter right now.

Trump is back

In the immediate aftermath of closing the Twitter deal last month, Musk tweeted that no content decisions or account reinstatements would take place before a content moderation council with “widely diverse viewpoints” convened.

That promise doesn’t seem to have held true because the account of former US president Donald Trump is back on the platform after a poll narrowly favoured its return. His account was permanently suspended after Twitter found it encouraged violence during the 6 January riots in 2021.

Musk conducted the poll on Twitter – which he claims is ridden with bots – asking users if Trump should be reinstated. More than half (51.8pc) said yes while 48.2pc said no, with more than 15m votes being cast. Musk claimed in a thread that 134m had seen the poll.

It remains to be seen if Trump is interested in using his Twitter account, which still has more than 87m followers, because he is invested in his own platform Truth Social.

Piracy is running rampant

With cuts to the teams that monitor the platform, it may be no surprise that piracy appears to be having a field day on Twitter. There have been instances of users posting entire movies in threads by breaking them up into many short video clips.

While some accounts have been suspended for such actions, piracy may remain an issue as the World Cup kicked off yesterday. FIFA is famously not a fan of unlicensed videos on social media.

Anti-trans accounts make a comeback

Before reinstating Trump’s account, Musk announced the return of Jordan Peterson and The Babylon Bee in a thread detailing Twitter’s new policy on hateful tweets.

“New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach,” he tweeted. “Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted and demonetised so no ads or other revenue to Twitter. You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of internet.”

Peterson was banned from Twitter after he deadnamed trans actor Elliot Page and called their surgeon a criminal, while The Babylon Bee was banned after naming US assistant secretary for health Rachel Levine – who is a trans woman – as ‘Man of the Year’ in an article.

These moves may have an impact on hate speech on Twitter towards trans people and the rest of the LGBTQI+ community. They came just before Trans Day of Remembrance yesterday – and also the day a gunman killed five in a gay nightclub in Colorado.

An Apple exec has deleted his account

Less than 24 hours after Trump’s account was reinstated, high-profile Apple executive Phil Schiller deleted his Twitter account.

Schiller, who had more than 200,000 followers on his account that had been created in 2008, is a prominent figure in Apple’s keynotes and responsible for leading Apple Events and the App Store.

The move comes at a time when some speculate that Musk’s plan to turn Twitter into a subscription service threatens to pit the company against Apple and Google on app store fees and content moderation grounds.

Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman said that there is a possibility the two giants may even remove Twitter from their app stores.

“While I expect lots of leeway, there is a real scenario in which Apple/Google remove Twitter because of content moderation issues or because Twitter decides to bypass the 15pc to 30pc cuts,” he tweeted.

“Notably, we appear to now know how Apple’s App Store chief feels about the new Twitter,” Gurman added, referring to Schiller.

Mismanagement may continue

While there is no clarity on how many Twitter employees exactly remain, it is clear that the exodus is far from over.

After many left the company last week after refusing to give in to Musk’s demand of “extremely hardcore” work, the new boss reportedly demanded that remaining engineers turn up to the San Francisco office, even those out of state, only to relax the demand later.

There are also reports that Musk ordered all remaining developers to “email me a bullet point summary of what your code commits have achieved in the last six months, along with up to 10 screenshots of the most salient lines of code”.

Musk also fired Robin Wheeler, former head of global ad sales, one week after persuading her to stay when she announced her resignation along with former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth.

Bloomberg reports that more layoffs are coming for the ad sales and partnerships teams today. Meanwhile in Ireland, the Government has been notified of 140 redundancies expected in the Twitter Dublin office – but more staff may be leaving out of choice.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic