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People are singing their final bird songs on Twitter, as some brace for what they fear will be a final farewell to the platform whose membership has dwindled dramatically in the few weeks it’s been owned by the billionaire Elon Musk.
While Twitter is unlikely to shut down completely, departing employees are warning of service disruptions, glitches and security risks.
Additionally, there are concerns about the platform’s ability to handle traffic during big events, such as the World Cup kick-off this weekend.
On Thursday, more employees resigned after Musk gave them an ultimatum: either sign a new “hardcore era” or walk away with three months of layoff. The fresh starts came just two weeks after Musk fired half the company. He also cut thousands of contractor jobs and fired some employees who publicly criticized him. Without cutting costs and increasing revenues, he says, bankruptcy is possible.
Some former employees who opted out of Musk’s new vision took to Twitter to explain their decisions.
“I left because I no longer knew why I was staying,” said Peter Clowes, a senior software engineer who quit on Thursday. wrote in a thread. “I used to stay for the people, the vision and of course the money (let’s be honest). All of that has been drastically changed or uncertain.”
Clowes noted that any employee who chose to stay would have had to give up their option to be fired before seeing their offer, and without a clear picture of Musk’s planned future. He said of his team of 75 engineers, only three chose to stay.
There was no shared vision with us. No 5-year plan like at Tesla. Nothing more than what everyone can see on Twitter. This would supposedly happen for those who stayed, but the request was blind faith and required signing the severance offer before seeing it. Pure loyalty test.
— Peter Clowes (@peterclowes) November 18, 2022
Employees who were laid off in early November have still not received any communication from Twitter, other than a note to their personal email addresses that severance packages are going to take longer to arrive, according to a former employee who, as others, spoke to NPR. on condition of anonymity because they feared the loss of promised severance pay and retaliation from the company.
Although the platform is still working, many warning features may deteriorate as the site is run by a worn-out team.
Users brace for a Twitter shutdown
Many users encourage each other to protect against an outage or breach by uploading their data archives, including their tweets and follower lists. Yet the load created on Twitter’s systems could become a tipping point, the said the former employee.
They also worried about what might happen to Twitter’s data centers without the manpower to monitor them sufficiently.
“If a network cable is disconnected, or a hard drive is full, or there’s a minor power switch failure somewhere, there aren’t enough people to deal with those situations.” , they said.
In addition, there are safety and security issues. Twitter saw an increase in racist and anti-Semitic tweets after Musk’s takeover. Many employees and contractors who were fired or resigned worked in teams responsible for combating toxic and illegal content.
Musk defined his interest in buying Twitter in the first place as increasing freedom of expression. He has previously criticized its policies against hate speech, harassment and misleading claims.
But he hit a steep learning curve as Twitter’s self-proclaimed “Chief Twit.” A few hours after concluding the deal at the end of October, he tweeted, “Comedy is now legal on Twitter.” Then when some users changed their names and photos to mimic his, he changed his tone and declared“Going forward, all Twitter handles that engage in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended.”
Musk’s habit of abruptly announcing changes and features, and rolling them back just as quickly, has left staff feeling whipped — and in some cases, redundant.
“A Twitter whose policies are set by unilateral executive order hardly needs a trust and safety function dedicated to its principled development,” wrote Yoel Roth, the former head of trust and safety. security at Twitter who resigned earlier this month, in a New York Times editorial.
With gutted security, engineering, and content moderation teams, the platform is also more vulnerable to hacks and abuse.
Twitter is a platform “so complicated that nobody really understands how it all works,” said another former employee. “The loss of the security organization is bad, the loss of all that institutional knowledge is worse.”
NPR’s Camila Domonoske contributed to this report.