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X remains mired in turmoil, a year after Musk takeover

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – A year ago Elon Musk purchased X, formerly known as Twitter, taking the platform on a journey that has resulted in lost money, advertisers and trust.

Musk closed the USD44 billion deal on October 27, 2022, facing a lawsuit that held him to terms of purchase he was keen to escape.

Here is a look back at Musk’s first year as owner of the platform.

In the days after his purchase, Musk quickly fired executives who had been running Twitter and took the publicly traded company private. He also laid off most of the San Francisco-based company’s workers, cutting ranks to fewer than 1,500 from 8,000.

Twitter employees were asked to commit unconditionally to their jobs and forego any notion of telecommuting. Former project manager Esther Crawford, who wrote online about her experience, said Musk replaced the company’s family atmosphere with a climate of fear.

She described Musk as audacious but “moody”, surrounding himself with “yes men” and making decisions on instinct.

In July, Musk did away with Twitter’s globally recognised bird logo and changed the platform’s name to X.

In the months following his takeover, Musk gutted content moderation, restored accounts of previously banned extremists, and allowed users to purchase account verification, helping them profit from viral – but often inaccurate – posts. Musk defended such changes in the name of free speech. He disabled features put in place to prevent users from being duped by false claims and put in new systems that encourage their spread, according to nonprofit fact-checking website PolitiFact.

Steps taken by Musk at X “have sparked increased sharing of misinformation and hate speech”, PolitiFact said on Monday in a report, echoing an array of groups tracking toxic content on social media.

The fast-evolving Israel-Hamas conflict has been seen as one of the first real tests of Musk’s version of the platform during a major crisis. For many experts, the results confirm their worst fears: that changes have made it a challenge to discern truth from fiction.

Over the past year, the platform’s advertising business partially collapsed as marketers soured on X.

A partially completed ‘X’ sign atop the company headquarters in San Francisco, United States. PHOTO: AP