It's been almost a year since Elon Musk saw through on his threat/promise to buy Twitter, and whatever you think about him, it's impossible to argue that he hasn't had an impact.
From firing half the company to scrapping Twitter's remote work policy, changing the long established name (and logo) and stopping paying rent, it's been a long twelve months.
We look back at the 21 ways (and counting) Twitter, sorry, X, has got worse under Musk.
1. Mass firings
Almost immediately after purchasing Twitter in 2022, Musk did two things. Firstly, he attempted to create a meme with a terrible ‘Let that sink in’ pun he cracked on social media, accompanied with a photo of him taking a sink into Twitter HQ.
The second thing he did was use the age-old tactic that all incoming CEOs have in their arsenal – redundancies. Musk didn’t just let a few people go though, he practically cut the staff numbers in half overnight. Quite the entrance. We don’t know if the sink survived the cull.
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2. Ending remote work
While those staff that avoided the firings probably let out a huge sigh of relief, they might have been chilled by his next move.
Once he has taken over, Musk insisted that all employees had to return to the office, calling time on remote work at Twitter. Before Musk, Twitter had actually been pretty progressive with its work from home policy, telling staff at the start of the pandemic that they were free to work from home forever.
The writing was probably on the wall – Musk has always been vocally against remote work, calling it ‘unethical’.
3. Removal of key misinformation employees
One of the casualties of the mass redundancies was the team responsible for handling misinformation and disinformation on the platform.
In September 2022, the feature that lets users report political misinformation was scrapped. In November, Twitter rolled back on enforcing its Covid misinformation policy. The next month, Musk disbanded the volunteer group which advised it on child abuse, self harm and hate speech.
While these checks have been replaced with the Community Notes feature, there is concern that the sheer wealth of disinformation means that the platform is struggling to keep up, with the recent Israel-Hamas conflict proving to be particularly challenging.
4. Removing news headlines from articles
When you’re ranking the most important aspects of a news story, you’d probably put the headline at the top. Not the case for Musk.
Recent changes to X mean that it will no longer display news headlines, instead showing only the preview pane and URL.
Musk justifies this as a way to retain time spent on X, in much the same way the platform has disabled direct links to competitors. However, it means that readers aren't getting the full story from news being published on the platform.
5. Charging for verification
There used to be a time that the blue verification checkmark on Twitter meant that you knew you could trust the account to belong to the person posting from it. Whether it was Tom Cruise, the President of the United States, or your favorite retailer, you that little blue icon gave you the confidence that the words were coming from the official source.
When Musk took over Twitter, he made the famous blue check mark available to all, for the price of eight dollars a month. Suddenly, Twitter became a place where anyone could buy their way into the blue checkmark club, and confusion soon reigned as chancers impersonated legitimate accounts.
6. The name change
Twitter has been Twitter for 23 years. And now it’s X. Yet people will still refer to it as Twitter, or at best, X (formerly known as Twitter).
X, as it turns out, is a terrible name. It’s also hugely problematic, given that there already exists a social media business called X, and not only that, but other companies already have trademarks on it, including Microsoft.
And beyond anything else, asking people to “follow you on X” just sounds weird.
7. The logo change
With the name change came a new logo, too. As any marketing expert will tell you, having an established, recognizable brand is invaluable. What you certainly should never do, is simply throw it all away on a whim, and replace your logo with something that looks like it was made in Microsoft Paint, three minutes before going into a design meeting.
And yet…here we are. Musk even got asked to remove a huge neon X from his building (although that was down to a lack of planning permission rather than complaints about its design).
8. The awkward relationship with CEO Lina Yaccarino
In 2023, Musk polled his followers on Twitter, asking if he should step down as CEO. In what must have been a bitter pill to swallow, the internet told him that he definitely should.
True to his word, Musk did step down, and appointed former CBS ad executive Linda Yaccarino into the role. Since then, the media has had the unenviable task of informing Yaccarino of what promises Musk has just blurted out on social media, like a child passing messages between two parents who don’t talk anymore.
Check out her bamboozled reaction at the recent Verge conference, when host Julia Boorstin tells her that Musk intends to turn X into a mandatory subscription service for all users, a plan that Yaccarino clearly had never heard before.
Ok, maybe this is actually one of the best things to come out of Musk taking over Twitter, for the entertainment it has given us.
9. The rise of hate speech
Twitter discourse has always been ‘spicy’ to say the least, but the takeover by Musk saw hate speech increase on the platform almost immediately.
Barely a month after taking over, studies showed a shocking rise in hate speech against minorities. Slurs against Black Americans went from an average 1,282 a day to 3,876 under Musk. Slurs used against gay men went from 2,506 a day to 3,964. Anti-Semitic posts increased 61%.
How did Musk respond? He threatened to sue the organization behind the research, the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
10. Reinstating banned accounts
Some of the people who were previously banned from Twitter, that have been reinstated under Musk:
Donald Trump – Originally banned due to risk of inciting violence.
Jordan Peterson – Originally banned for ‘hateful conduct' against actor Elliot Page.
Andrew Tate – Originally banned for violating Twitter's rules.
Ye – Originally banned for making anti-Semitic comments.
11. Driving users away
Have you noticed the number of followers, and people you're following, dip over the past year? Musk's takeover saw an exodus from the platform, with celebrities, companies, and the general public, all throwing in the towel.
Among them, musician Jack White, who cited Trump's reinstatement on the platform as the last straw. Elton John quit last December, stating that Twitter perpetuating misinformation meant that he no longer wanted to be on the platform. Broadcasters NPR, PBS and KCRW all quit Twitter too.
When Musk purchased Twitter, it had 368 million users. Projections point to this decreasing to 335 million by next year.
If you've had enough of X and want to quit, read our guide to deleting your X account.
12. Labeling PBS, BBC & NPR at ‘government funded’
It won't surprise you to learn that Musk had a spat with several broadcasters, including PBS, NPR and the BBC, labelling them on his platform as ‘government funded'.
The problem? This isn't wholly correct. While it's true that both PBS and NPR do receive a small amount of government funding, they are mainly funded by the public. The BBC is wholly funded via a license fee paid for by the British public, and independent of the government. When the BBC pushed Musk as to why it was given this label, he wasn't able to give a reason.
The fallout meant that even though these labels have since been removed, NPR and PBS haven't used the platform since.
It's a great example of Musk's ‘act first, think later' approach to X, and the wider implications it can have.
13. Cutting off free API access
Musk isn't a man who likes to give away freebies, and shutting down the long established free Twitter API was likely seen as a way to recoup some costs.
However, doing so had a catastrophic impact for many apps that had relied on for so long, and while a new ‘free' version was introduced, only offering 1,500 post requests a month meant it was unusable for many developers, who were forced to pay out for the API or abandon their apps altogether.
14. Throttling links to certain outlets
In August, the Washington Post discovered that Musk was throttling links to ‘competitors' on X, with delays of up to five seconds when an external link was clicked on.
Those affected included Instagram, Facebook, Bluesky and Substack. While these delays appeared to return to normality after being initially reported, a study in September seemed to show that links to these sites still took 60 times longer to load than other links.
15. Blocking competitors
It may be pretty much a distant memory now, there was a moment in time back in July when Meta launched its X competitor, Threads.
It barely had any features, it didn’t even have a native web version, and even though it was another Mark Zuckerberg platform, it was regarded as the underdog in the fight with Twitter.
Although the appetite for the platform has since cooled considerably, there was a small window where it looked like it could be the next big thing, and Musk felt threatened by that.
As Twitter users migrated away from the platform, they shared their Threads links – or at least tried to. Musk had called from them to be blocked, just as he had done with Mastadon, Facebook and Instagram user accounts in the past.
16. Charging for X
Since the early days of social media, the idea of paying for the service has always been something of a joke. However, it might be time to stop laughing, as Musk is keen to get X back in the black, and a paid subscription could be his answer.
We’ve already seen X charge $1 for new accounts, which is being framed as a way of combatting bots, and of course, you can pay $8 a month for the privilege of a blue checkmark. However, this is just the start, as in October it was confirmed that two new paid tiers were to be available – one that is cheaper than the current checkmark tier but doesn't remove ads, and a more expensive one that removed the ads.
It remains to be seen if the charge to use X will become mandatory, as Musk has hinted at in the past.
17. Collecting your personal data
Any online service that is free to use is likely already sucking up your data, but Musk has taken things one step further recently with a change to X’s terms and conditions.
Now, X users can expect to have their biometric data collected, as well as employment and education history. It will also collect “metadata related to encrypted messages”, too.
18. Stopped paying rent
You'd assume that having X as a tenant would be something of a boon for a landlord. Turns out, this isn't the case.
In the summer, it was revealed that the company was behind on rent at several of its offices, with sources stating this was down to Musk attempting to renegotiate the leases.
At it's Boulder office, the landlord actually took X to court so they could evict the company.
19. Security issues
Twitter's security was never perfect, but after Musk took over the company, a group of US senators, including Elizabeth Warren, sent a letter to him and CEO Linda Yaccarino, expressing worry over the security of the platform.
Citing concerns about the exodus of security experts at the company, and reports that the platform may not have been carrying out internal privacy reviews as expected, it was another sign of a lack of faith in the day to day running of X.
20. Less parental leave for parents
We're back to the X staff again, and you've got to feel sorry for them. Those that weren't fired, and don't mind returning to the office had another nasty shock – reduced parental leave.
In May, Musk slashed employees parental leave from a generous 20 weeks, to just two.
21. Threatening to remove the block feature
In August, Musk said on X that he was going to remove the ability to block other users on the platform.
This hasn't actually happened yet, perhaps because Apple's app store guidelines state that apps which offer user-generated content must have the ability to block accounts.
Like many of Musk's ideas, he has referenced this once, and then never mentioned it again, so hopefully it won't ever come into fruition.