‘It’s like a building where all the pieces are on fire’: Twitter engineer says layoffs created chaos and Elon Musk works in the office with 2 bodyguards

March 6, 2023, 6:06 PM UTC
A picture of Elon Musk
Twitter has seen dramatic changes under Elon Musk's leadership.
Dimitrios Kambouris—The Met Museum/Vogue/Getty Images

Elon Musk became Twitter’s CEO in October and, in a matter of months, made drastic changes. He sacked scores of employees, including top executives and the team responsible for policing the service for inappropriate and abusive content or accounts. Employees who stayed at the company had to work crazy schedules and, in some cases, cater to Musk’s whims such as his desire to give his own tweets more visibility.

Twitter has had more frequent technical glitches in recent weeks, and it has become a breeding ground for fake accounts and bots. The platform is also increasingly becoming home to trolling and hateful content and “there’s nobody taking care of it,” an engineer at the company told BBC

“For someone on the inside, it’s like a building where all the pieces are on fire,” one unidentified Twitter employee told BBC as part of an investigation published Monday. 

The employee revealed the San Francisco–based social media company is in a state of chaos and many of the people in charge of creating and maintaining its security features that curbed 60% of Twitter’s trolling, have been fired. 

“When you look at it from the outside the facade looks fine, but I can see that nothing is working. All the plumbing is broken, all the faucets, everything,” the employee said. Since Twitter is short staffed, employees on other teams are forced to pile on additional tasks that aren’t under their remit.

“A totally new person, without the expertise, is doing what used to be done by more than 20 people,” the employee told the BBC. “That leaves room for much more risk, many more possibilities of things that can go wrong.”

Even on the content safety front, many features meant to protect users no longer work like they did before Musk became “chief twit” because there is no one assigned to them. 

Lisa Jennings Young was the head of Twitter’s content design, responsible for introducing safety features that guarded users from hateful content, when she was laid off after Musk’s acquisition. Her team members, all of whom were fired since Musk’s takeover, had designed the “nudge” feature that alerted users if their posts included trigger words or hateful language.

“Overall 60% of users deleted or edited their reply when given a chance through the nudge,” Jennings Young told the BBC. But now things are different. 

“There’s no one there to work on that at this time,” she said. 

Amid the disorderly environment, the Twitter employee who said the company was “on fire” told the BBC that when Musk is in the office he always has two bodyguards with him like in a “Hollywood movie.” They escort him everywhere—including to the restroom. 

Twitter did not immediately return Fortune’s request for comment. Musk and Twitter did not reply to the BBC’s investigation, but Musk tweeted a response to the original story.

The BBC investigation is the latest to shed light on Twitter’s internal operations since Musk bought the platform for $44 billion last year. Employees have said Twitter’s culture took a hit since the acquisition, with the office turning into a “ghost town” and no internal communications. They have also complained of long hours and the elimination of in-office perks as part of Musk’s effort to make the social media company profitable.

Twitter’s revenue reportedly dropped 35% in the fourth quarter, and on one day in January the service had 500 fewer advertisers than the same day a year earlier.

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