Twitter profile page belonging to Elon Musk seen on an Apple iPhone mobile phone.
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New Twitter owner Elon Musk fired more than 50 of his followers You’re here employees, mostly software engineers from the Autopilot team, in its takeover of Twitter, CNBC has learned.
Musk, CEO of automaker Tesla and reusable rocket maker SpaceX, completed the $44 billion acquisition of Twitter on October 28 and immediately made his mark there. He immediately fired the CEO, CFO, heads of the company’s policy and legal team and also dissolved Twitter’s board of directors.
According to internal records seen by CNBC, employees of Musk’s other companies are now allowed to work at Twitter, including more than 50 from Tesla, two from the Boring Company (which builds underground tunnels) and one from Neuralink (which develops a brain-computer interface).
Some of Musk’s friends, advisers and backers, including the head of his family office Jared Birchall, angel investor Jason Calacanis and PayPal founder COO and venture capitalist David Sacks, are also implicated. The same goes for two people who share Musk’s last name, James and Andrew Musk, who worked at Palantir and Neuralink respectively.
Among the dozens Elon Musk has recruited specifically from Tesla are: software development manager Ashok Elluswamy, TeslaBot autopilot and engineering manager Milan Kovac, senior software engineering manager Maha Virduhagiri, a program manager technical senior staff Pete Scheutzow and Jake Nocon, who is part of Tesla’s oversight unit, as senior security intelligence.
Nocon previously worked for Uber and Nisos, a security company that had a multimillion-dollar contract with Tesla to identify insider threats and monitor the company’s critics.
At Twitter, Musk relies on his lieutenants and loyalists to decide who and what to cut or keep on the social network.
He also urges them to learn everything they can about Twitter, from source code to content moderation and data privacy requirements, as quickly as possible so he can redesign the platform.
Musk has presented himself as a free speech absolutist, but must reconcile his wishes with laws and business realities. He said in an open letter to advertisers last week as he took over the company, “Twitter obviously cannot become a free hell for all, where anything can be said without consequences.”
It’s not immediately clear how Tesla employees should divide their hours between the automaker and Twitter.
Typically, when Tesla employees work for other Elon Musk companies, usually SpaceX or the Boring Company, they can be paid by the other company as a consultant. Some of Musk’s employees hold full-time positions at several of his companies. For example, Tesla Vice President of Materials Charlie Kuehmann is also simultaneously a vice president at SpaceX.
Other times, two Tesla employees told CNBC that Tesla employees are coerced into participating in projects at its other companies without additional pay because it’s good for their careers or because the work is seen as a job. assisting in a transaction or project with a related party.
Tesla is under greater scrutiny than ever over the technology built and maintained by its Autopilot team, namely its driver assistance systems, which are marketed as Autopilot, FSD and FSD Beta.
The SEC, DOJ, and California DMV are all investigating whether Tesla or Musk violated laws and misled consumers about Tesla’s driver assistance systems, which are still in development and no longer make not the self-driving company cars.
Meanwhile, the federal vehicle safety authority, NHTSA, continues to investigate whether Tesla’s driver assistance systems may have contained faults that contributed to or caused crashes. How Tesla marketed these systems on social media, including Twitter, is within the scope of at least one NHTSA investigation.
Several Twitter employees told CNBC over the weekend that Tesla employees currently on Twitter have been involved in the code review on the social network, even though their skills learned from working on Autopilot and other Tesla software and hardware do not directly overlap with the languages and systems used to build and maintain the social network. These employees asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak to the press on internal matters and fear retaliation.
For example, most engineers at automakers, even the forward-thinking Tesla, have no experience designing and operating search engines and platforms that are widely available to the public.
Twitter has multiple codebases with millions of lines of code in each, and a myriad of 10 or even 100 requests per second (RPS) systems that underpin it. At Tesla, Python is a favorite scripting language, and at Twitter, programmers have used Scala extensively.
Twitter is also more exposed to international regulations regarding hate speech and data privacy, for example, in particular the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.
Twitter employees who were there before Musk took over were asked to show his teams all kinds of technical documentation, justify their work and the work of their teams, and explain their value to the company. . The threat of dismissal hangs over if they don’t impress.
Employees said they feared being fired without cause or warning, rather than being fired with severance pay. Some fear they won’t be able to reap the rewards of stock options slated to vest in the first week of November, according to documentation seen by CNBC.
Meanwhile, Twitter employees said they have yet to receive any specific plans from Musk and his team and are largely unaware of possible staff reductions within their groups, budgets and their long-term strategies.
However, Musk set nearly impossible deadlines for some things to do.
An immediate project is to redesign the company’s subscription software, dubbed Twitter Blue, and the company’s verification system (sometimes called “blue checks” for the way they are indicated on the service). Employees say Musk wants this work done by the first week of November. The Verge previously reported that Musk wants to charge $20 per user per month, and only give verification marks to accounts of users who are paying subscribers, and would remove verification from accounts that don’t pay for Twitter Blue.
Twitter officials have asked some employees to work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, to meet Musk’s aggressive deadlines according to internal communications. The sprint orders came without any discussion of overtime pay or compensation time, or job security. Completing tasks before the deadline in early November is seen as a make-or-break issue for their careers at Twitter.
In an atmosphere of fear and mistrust, many Twitter employees have stopped communicating with each other on internal systems about workplace issues. Some of Twitter’s Slack channels went almost silent, several employees told CNBC.
Meanwhile, Musk and his entourage dug archived messages into systems, ostensibly looking for people to lay off and budgets or projects to cut.
On Sunday evening, in a demonstration of his unrestricted access to internal company information, CEO Elon Musk (who calls himself Chief Twit but is officially CEO and sole director) posted a screenshot to his 112 million Twitter followers.
The screenshot depicted comments from Twitter’s head of security and integrity, Yoel Roth, in May 2022. At the time, Musk was trying to walk out of his deal to buy Twitter for 54.20 $ per share.
In court and in public, Musk had strongly accused Twitter of tampering with the metrics, specifically downplaying the amount of spam, fake accounts and harmful bots that exist on the platform.
In internal messages that Musk made public, Roth wrote disparagingly about a person involved with the company named Amir, and also remarked that if Amir continued to “BS” him or others about goals and key findings, Twitter is “literally doing what Elon accuses us of doing.”
Musk alleged in a tweet that “Wachtell & Twitter board deliberately concealed this evidence from the court.” He also appeared to threaten further legal action, writing: ‘Stay tuned, more to come…’
Representatives for Twitter, Tesla and the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz have not yet responded to requests for comment.