Analysis

Is Twitter shutting down? Rumours of its collapse explained - as Elon Musk’s ‘hardcore’ ultimatum backfires

Staff who have departed the social media platform have claimed that Twitter will “start breaking soon” as Elon Musk’s takeover goes from bad to worse

Twitter has temporarily closed its offices over fears that disgruntled staff could sabotage the company, sparking fresh concerns about the website’s ability to stay online. In a fresh wave of job losses, it has emerged that many employees have refused to take up new owner Elon Musk’s offer of a new “hardcore” work culture at Twitter and at this time the social media platform’s short-term future appears uncertain.

It has been less than a month since the richest person in the world purchased the microblogging site, which was launched back in 2006. But in just the past three weeks Twitter’s workforce has gone from around 8,000 employees globally to perhap less than a thousand (according to tech reporter Kylie Robison), with a series of cuts or resignations. These include the company’s communications team and many of the engineers responsible for keeping the site running.

Musk issued employees with an ultimatum which asked them to either sign up for longer, more intense working hours - or face being let go. The tech entrepreneur wanted to build a new, “hardcore” Twitter 2.0, but has apparently been surprised by the number of workers who rejected his proposal and chose to accept the offer of three months’ severance pay instead.

Tech website The Verge reports that hundreds of workers have resigned, quoting one staffer posting on the company’s internal Slack messageboard: “I’m not pressing the button. My watch ends with Twitter 1.0. I do not wish to be part of Twitter 2.0.” The New York Times reported separately that several Twitter employees hung up on Musk as he tried to persuade them to stay at the company. Its story descibes an awkward scene: Musk had tried to persuade them to stay by saying he "knew how to win," and that others who wanted to "win" should join him - but as the 5pm deadline hit, some people on the video call began hanging up, even as their boss was speaking.

The closure of Twitter’s offices in the US over the coming weekend has allegedly come as an order from Musk, who is apparently paranoid over fears ex-employees could sabotage systems at the company, either internally or externally. Reports suggest that key employees that have left are responsible for keeping the site running and fixing issues that arise in computer systems. It is alleged that if these are not fixed, this could result in the website collapsing. Departing staff reportedly told The Verge that they “expect the platform to start breaking soon”.

In addition to engineers, Twitter has also sacked almost all of its UK operation and the vast majority of its content moderation department, consisting of both internal and external contractors. This has sparked a number of worries that scams, frauds and impersonations could affect its users, including businesses, politicians and celebrity figures. In one embarrassing gaffe last week, a pharmaceutical company saw its share price fall dramatically following an impersonation of its account by a regular user who had paid $8 for a verification tick, in which they claimed they were “making insulin free”.

Elon Musk completed his takeover of Twitter in late October - less than a month later its future appears to be in doubt (Image: Kim Mogg / NationalWorld)

US Senator Ed Markey has been one of the prominent critics of Musk’s takeover and subsequent policies, and has called on the Federal Trade Commission to hold him to account whilst he presides over Twitter. The purchase of the website saw its public status move into private hands, though Markey argues that Twitter’s ‘town square’ format holds an important place in the upholding of democracy not just in the US but across the world. Following a spat with Musk on Twitter (where else?), Markey warned him: “Fix your companies. Or Congress will.”

Many users have been speculating that the news around Twitter’s offices closing means that the platform’s future is in serious doubt - and the hashtags #RIPTwitter, #TwitterDown and #TwitterMigration have been trending today (18 November). There is also growing interest in how users can safeguard their Twitter data, with searches for ‘how to download your tweets’ and ‘how to save your follower lists’ increasing. Here’s our guide on the former.

In a damning indictment of the feeling towards Musk, a video calling Musk a ‘Space Karen’, amongst other things, was projected on to Twitter’s building in San Francisco last night. It remains to be seen whether Twitter will survive, but its future - both in the short and long-term - looks a lot more uncertain than it did before Musk’s takeover was confirmed in late October.