Technology

Twitter roundup: bankruptcy threat, top staff leave, Musk’s payment system plans

To say Twitter is going through an upheaval following Elon Musk’s takeover would be an understatement. With so much news coming from the platform every day, here’s a summary of what’s happened recently, from talk of the company going bankrupt and FTC warnings to the chaotic verification system and Musk’s plan to turn Twitter into WeChat.

A lot has happened at Twitter since Musk arrived, including the billionaire laying off half of its employees and suspending accounts for impersonating others (often Musk himself).

Talking to employees for the first time, Musk warned that “bankruptcy isn’t out of the question,” according to several reports.

Musk has other problems to deal with: three of Twitter’s top security officials—chief information security officer Lea Kissner, chief privacy officer Damien Kieran and chief compliance officer Marianne Fogarty—along with Twitter’s head of client solutions, Robin Wheeler, and Yoel Roth, the head of safety and integrity, all left the company on the same day Musk warned of the bankruptcy. Roth had been there to assure users and advertisers that all was well at Twitter, so his departure will come as a blow.

The loss of top security personnel prompted a warning from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The agency said it was “tracking the developments at Twitter with deep concern” and would take action to ensure the company was complying with a 2011 settlement, part of which requires Twitter to maintain a comprehensive security plan.

Musk had a warning for the remaining Twitter personnel, highlighting the importance of the new $8 pm Twitter Blue service that launched on Wednesday. “Without significant subscription revenue, there is a good chance Twitter will not survive the upcoming economic downturn,” he wrote in an email to staff. “We need roughly half of our revenue to be subscription.”

Speaking of Twitter Blue, the service now gives subscribers verified status. To address the problem of users pretending to be someone they’re not, public entities received gray check marks beneath the blue ones. These ‘official labels’ were rolled back before the end of the first day. Following more impersonations—an action that results in permabans—from verified users, the gray checks were brought back.

Musk has also said there are too many corrupt legacy blue “verification” checkmarks on the platform—as in, those from unpaid pre-Musk accounts—so they are being removed.

Elsewhere, the Twitter boss talked about his plans to turn the company into what sounds like a bank of sorts, complete with debit cards, checks, and loans. Musk says that Twitter users will receive a balance that can be sent anywhere in the system, which could be a way of tipping people or paying for paywalled content. He added that the site will set up a “high-yield money market account so that having a Twitter balance is the highest-yield thing that you can do,” and that instead of a traditional banking system, users can have “one balance on Twitter that can simply go positive or a negative.”

Users will also get a debit card tied to their balance to use in places that don’t accept Twitter payments, and Musk hinted that he might offer bank-style loans, too.

Musk has talked about turning Twitter into “the everything app,” suggesting something like China’s WeChat social media app that can be used to order food, book rides, make payments, and more. Implementing banking features is an ambitious plan that will bring plenty of regulatory scrutinies, but Musk sounds determined to make it a reality; Twitter registered with the US Treasury as a payments processor today.

In the final bit of Twitter news, Musk has confirmed that employees are expected to work in the office for at least 40 hours a week, a replica of the mandate he implemented at Tesla earlier this year. It reversed the company’s stance from 2020 when it said employees could work from home “forever” if they wished.

The world’s richest person has a lot on his plate right now, but he might have even more to deal with following Joe Biden’s announcement that Musk’s relationships with other countries should be looked at.