Leaked internal communications by Twitter employees reveal woke employees are overtaken by despair and anger about Elon Musk’s month-long effort to acquire Twitter.
Musk announced he would purchase the company for $44 billion on Monday. The deal concludes a month-long saga that began with Musk first tweeting out polls and his thoughts about the decline of free speech on Twitter.
On the business communication platform Slack, some Twitter employees vented against the new owner, leaked messages reveal.
“Physically cringy watching Elon talk about free speech,” a site reliability engineer who identifies as a nonbinary transgender and plural person wrote.
“We’re all going through the five stages of grief in cycles and everyone’s nerves are frazzled,” wrote a senior staff software engineer who called Musk an “a**hole,” and tried to console his colleagues. “We’re all spinning our wheels, and coming up with worst case scenarios (Trump returns! No more moderation!). The fact is that [Musk] has not talked about what he’s planning on doing in any detail outside of broad sweeping statements that could be easily seen as hyperbolic showboating.”
A senior staff video engineer announced he would be quitting, “Not the place to say it perhaps, but I will not work for this company after the takeover.”
Following the back-and-forth among multiple employees angry about the news, some warned that their communications on Slack could be searched. The employees then moved their conversations onto their personal devices using the encrypted chat application Signal.
Twitter’s leadership appeared to predict an internal backlash and possible sabotage when it locked down the ability of its employees to make changes to the platform through Friday.
Leading up to Monday’s deal, Twitter employees had already been venting for weeks on Slack about Musk and defending the platform’s moderation enforcement.
A reliability engineering manager said Musk’s views on free speech “is cover for ‘I want to not be held accountable for saying or amplifying harmful things.’”
Another engineer wrote that “self-reported censorship is sometimes just horrible people f—king around and then find[ing] out.” A senior content strategist responded, “and it doesn’t happen often enough.”
That senior content strategist, who worked as a left-wing political operative outside of Twitter, led many of the conversations that were heavily critical of Musk.
“Sometimes I think it can’t be as bad as I’m imagining it’ll be. Then I see something like this and I’m all ‘nope it’ll be even worse,’ ” she wrote responding to a Musk tweet last week.
But not all employees kept their views within internal business chats. Some of the strongest comments against Musk were made publicly on employees’ Twitter accounts.
Addison Howenstine, a software engineer, tweeted: “You asked me why El*n M*sk buying 9.2% of Tw*tter and getting a board seat is bad and I’m explaining why this was clearly not his end goal and things will certainly get worse and potentially be dangerous for democracy and global affairs.”
Jay Holler, an engineering manager, broke down in multiple tweets earlier in the month when it was announced that Musk could take on a leadership role. “The problem with @elonmusk is that he has demonstrated a pattern of harmful behavior consistently that disproportionately impacts marginalized people, so maybe let’s not give him any more power than he already stole?” Holler later tweeted, “I’m radicalized now.”
Connor Campbell, a nonbinary front-end engineer, responded directly to Musk on Tuesday defending Twitter’s censorship of the Post for its reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop shortly before the 2020 presidential election.
“Twitter had a policy about hacked documents. We applied this policy equally,” Campbell claimed. The contents of the laptop were not hacked, as The Washington Post and The Times both acknowledged. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said it was a “total mistake” at a congressional hearing last year.
Laura Gomez, who used to lead localization for Twitter, tweeted: “A M*sk-owned Twitter is one of the greatest threats to the 2022 and 2024 elections. We are f*cked if this happens.”
Separately on Slack, multiple Twitter employees disparaged this journalist repeatedly for posting screenshots of their colleagues’ publicly available tweets. They discussed ways they thought his tweets could be a violation of Twitter’s policies.
“How is this [Ngo] a–hole verified?” asked a senior staff software engineer. Multiple employees used insults to refer to this journalist before conceding that the tweets didn’t violate their rules. They suggested to one another to remove mentions of Twitter employment in their Twitter biographies.
Though many of the internal Slack comments were personally critical of Musk and his views, a few employees weren’t as outraged and some actively pushed back.
“I don’t know much about him, I don’t really care. I would just love free speech to be [the] highest priority. I don’t care who leads that. Especially for minorities like myself, I had no rights at all in my home country,” said a woman in the design department.
Another software engineer wrote, “I do think it’s obvious that our policies are biased (everyone has a bias) and I would personally like to see more balance. IDK if Musk is the right person to do that but the idea of someone who might be less biased towards the things we are already biased on is something that I like.”