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4 things you need to know about the chaos unfolding at Twitter

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Elon Musk’s leadership sure is changing quite a few things at Twitter. In just a span of a few weeks, the company has fired its top executives and laid off nearly 3,700 employees, only to then try and bring some of them back. The revamped Twitter Blue subscription has caused all sorts of chaos since its launch on November 9 and now there’s turmoil around the grey ‘official’ checkmark that the company announced on November 10. 

To make matters worse, the changes Musk is so aggressively pushing at Twitter might just bring down the FTC’s wrath upon the company as well. The company’s Chief Privacy Officer Damien Kieran, Chief Information Security Officer Lea Kissner and Chief Compliance Officer Marianne Fogarty have resigned from the company, as confirmed by Kissner in a tweet on Thursday. 

The FTC is keeping a keen eye on the new changes to the platform. Previously, the two organisations locked horns in May when they reached a settlement following the company’s use of personal user information to target ads. Should these new changes break this agreement, Twitter could face a fine of billions of dollars. 

Musk has already warned the world that Twitter will be doing a lot of ‘dumb’ things over the coming months, sticking to what works and rejecting what doesn’t. Amidst the chaos, here’s everything you need to know about what’s going on at Twitter. 

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A super shaky Twitter Blue rollout

  • Following the revamped $7.99 Twitter Blue subscription that gives anyone access to a blue verification mark and access to some extra features, there has been a wave of fake accounts on Twitter pretending to be politicians, sportspersons and even entire companies. 
  • Twitter is actively trying to address the problem by suspending these accounts as they appear. 
  • While Musk believes that the new subscription will reduce the number of spam and bot accounts on the platform, in the hours since its launch it has clearly demonstrated how easily it can be used to spread fake news as well. 
  • Additionally, Twitter’s listing for the subscription reads “$7.99/month (introductory offer)” on the Twitter Blue support page, suggesting that the price might go up in the future. 

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Will the grey check stay or go?

  • Twitter’s new grey ‘official’ check, meant to provide double-verification for select accounts for governments, companies, major media outlets, business partners or public figures disappeared just a few short hours after its appearance. 
  • Musk claimed to have ‘killed’ the grey check stating that the blue check remains the “great leveller”. 
  • Esther Crawford, head of the new Twitter Blue initiative who announced the new verification check herself, reportedly tweeted that the label will still be a part of the Twitter Blue rollout but will only apply to government and commercial entities at first. 
  • However, after the new subscription went live, Twitter was flooded with impersonators who received the blue mark by paying $8. Following this wave of fake accounts, the grey label has been reinstated for the time being. 
  • Twitter has stated to be ‘aggressively’ going after impersonation and deception. However, the company clearly stated they’re not putting an official label on accounts. Considering you can see the label show up on the Twitter account among a few others, we can’t say for certain whether the label will stay or get axed. 

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The FTC can come down upon Twitter any time

  • Recent changes to Twitter have now bypassed its standard data governance process, opening up Twitter to massive fines, potentially in the billions of dollars, by the FTC.
  • The settlement requires assessments of risks to privacy, confidentiality and security before Twitter launches or modifies a product or service. Something that hasn’t been done with any of the new changes coming at Twitter. 
  • The Verge reports that Elon is willing to take significant risks in relation to the company and its users.
  • In a note sent to Twitter employees in the company’s public Slack channel, a company lawyer has recommended seeking whistleblower protection should the employees feel uncomfortable doing anything they’re asked to do. 
  • In the meantime, Twitter’s new legal department is now asking engineers to “self-certify” compliance with FTC rules and other privacy laws. 
  • Self-certifying anything that violates the FTC’s consent decree can be tied to a prison sentence and significant fines. 
  • The FTC consent order also requires the company to submit a compliance notice signed by predetermined officers of the company to the FTC within 14 days. Those 14 days ended yesterday, November 10 and we’re yet to hear anything on the matter. 
  • In a statement sent to The Verge, an unnamed spokesperson said that that the FTC is “tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern. No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must follow our consent decrees. Our revised consent order gives us new tools to ensure compliance, and we are prepared to use them.”

Musk’s bankruptcy warning

  • In his first email to Twitter employees, Musk warned them to prepare for a dire economy while also introducing strict work environment rules.
  • Remote work has been ended with immediate effect. Employees are also expected to be in the office for a minimum of 40 hours a week. 
  • Twitter’s new owner clearly stated in the email obtained by The Verge that the revamped Twitter Blue was his top priority and that without significant subscription revenue, “there is a good chance Twitter will not survive the upcoming economic downturn”. According to Musk, roughly half the Twitter revenue needs to come from subscriptions. 
  • Musk also reminded everyone of their top priority in a follow-up email stating that finding and suspending any verified bot, troll or spam account is the “absolute top priority” over the next few days. 

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