This is Joseph.
Now it is true that some of Brexit was made possible by social media, including Twitter, but that is not the angle that I want to take today. For today, I want to talk about simple solutions to complex problems.
Brexit was very much sold as a way to take back control and still retain benefits. Colloquially known as "cakeism", it created a narrative that you could have all benefits and no costs to the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. Thus the analogy with having your cake and eating it as well. Investment groups have noted that the economic effects of Brexit have tended to be deleterious, with the United Kingdom mostly doing worse in terms of economic growth.
Now the counter-factual is hard and there are other things happening at the same time (for example, a world-wide pandemic has not been good news for growth and perhaps the health care sector in the United Kingdom was especially weak). But it is hard to see how this ended up as good news. Nor do I have any patience for "if only Brexit was done right". If your policy cannot survive the real world challenges of implementation by three successive Prime Ministers, all of whom have enacted it despite huge political costs, then it is not much of a policy. So forgive me if my patience for "Brexit betrayed" is thin -- the policy needs to be robust enough to survive normal politics and not a religious calling which only the truly devout can make work. The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, not a theocracy.
Similarly, with Twitter, it is looking like simple solutions to a complex moderation problem have worked out poorly. Now, I do want to make one caveat. It is possible that Twitter is a project for which Elon Musk is expending his wealth out of a vision of a better social media future rather than a business opportunity. Bill Gates has spent more than the $44 billion Twitter cost on charity, so it isn't impossible that this is the plan and then what I have to say won't make much sense. If Musk has a twenty-five year social media vanity project then it might be worth that much of his wealth to shave 5-10 years off of it. Not sure, but just keep in mind these comments are under the rubric of "create functional business" and not "repurpose company for private ambitions to make the internet better". I have thoughts if it is the later, but they are quite different.
Instead, I want to focus on the way that he was managed knowledge workers. Looking at the timeline we see the following the steps (thanks to Gergely Orosz for keeping track of it):
- November 4th, 50% layoffs
- A quick pivot to discover that some people where laid off by accident and needed to be rehired
- November 7th, calls to ask people to come back with 10 minutes to decide
- A wave of resignations follow
- November 10th, remote work is stopped even for people with remote work contracts (with some unclear and limited exceptions).
- Also on November 10th, you need to reaffirm your dedication to Twitter or be let go with 3 months severance.
- November 23rd, contractors lose holiday pay
- November 24th, as part of the new code review process there were 50 engineers fired.
- These engineers get only 4 weeks of severance, not 3 months.