Twitter is, at this point, just three kids in a trenchcoat yanking on a bunch of levers to see what each one does. Often, the result is one vitally important feature or another being shut down, leaving users unable to tweet, follow new people, or, on Monday morning, click on links and view images or videos. Amid all of this, as the website goes down in flames, its esteemed CEO Elon Musk is sharing incel memes from iFunny, blaming employees for the website’s “brittle” code, and, reportedly, taking aggressive action to protect himself from imagined coup and assassination attempts from his workers.
Per a Monday BBC report, one of the remaining employees at the company (using the pseudonym Sam) told the publication that “wherever [Musk] goes in the office, there are at least two bodyguards—very bulky, tall, Hollywood movie-[style] bodyguards,” who follow the CEO “even when [he goes] to the restroom.”
I’m not surprised that Musk, who claimed that an automated Twitter posting publicly available updates about his private jet’s movements was sharing his “assassination coordinates,” thinks there is a pervasive plot to kill him. In December, without any evidence, he shared photos of a man he claimed was following his car while his young child was in it. Surely the controversial billionaire and emerald mine heir is used to receiving death threats and other threatening messages—but I’m struck by how deep his paranoia is. He seems convinced his own employees are trying to Julius Caesar him.
It’s precisely this paranoia and distrust of Twitter employees that seem to be driving some of the website’s vulnerabilities and most gaping holes right now. According to the worker who told BBC about Musk’s bodyguards, Musk “[brought] in engineers from his other company [Tesla] and [asked] them to evaluate [Twitter] engineers’ code” due to his distrust of remaining Twitter employees. One of his first moves as CEO was to fire nearly half of all employees, and he’s continued to fire employees en masse on a regular basis, often singling out those who question or critique him.
The consequences have been vast: Without content moderation teams or employees manning crucial features to combat harassment and child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM), those types of posts are reportedly on a sharp rise, per BBC. Entire teams charged with monitoring and eliminating CSEM have been canned and one worker formerly on a CSEM team told BBC this week that Musk didn’t even talk to his team prior to canning it. Another former employee said that a “nudge” feature to detect and discourage users from tweeting violent or harassing content—which Twitter’s internal numbers indicate reduced trolling comments by 60 percent—has effectively been abandoned.
Sam summed up the situation at Twitter by explaining: “A totally new person, without the expertise, is doing what used to be done by more than 20 people. That leaves room for much more risk, many more possibilities of things that can go wrong.” The company’s physical office space is apparently in utter disarray, as well. According to BBC, bathrooms don’t work, rent isn’t being paid, and nor are company Slack and Amazon bills; “cleaning and catering staff were all sacked,” Sam claimed and “Musk even tried to sell the office plants to employees.”
Ironically, it’s Musk who seems to be the greatest threat to both Twitter and his employees, whom he, across all of his companies, has a record of, erm, mistreating. And yet, in his mind, as the bulky “Hollywood” bodyguards perennially at his heels would suggest, his employees are the threat to him. Musk’s paranoia, manifesting in constant firings and refusal to hear critics, has left the website in shambles. It’s simple, really: Twitter—which Musk has called “brittle” under his direction—is brittle because Musk is, too.