Elon Musk is considering a change to Twitter that would put all of the site’s content behind a paywall, according to a new report from tech journalist Casey Newton at Platformer. The news comes in the wake of some bizarre decisions by Musk after he took control of the social media company late last month—a marriage Musk tried to back out of, but was forced to consummate to the tune of $44 billion.
Musk’s proposed paywall for all Twitter content, something that does not appear imminent according to Newton, could allow some users to read and publish tweets for free during a short window and only charge after a certain amount of time. Twitter did not respond to a request for comment from Gizmodo, something that tends to happen with any business run by the press-hostile billionaire.
Musk has moved fast and broken things, in the parlance of Silicon Valley, though those breaks have come with a human toll at the company’s San Francisco office. Musk laid off thousands of people last week, but managers at Twitter reportedly tried to shield employees who were pregnant or going through cancer treatment and in desperate need of their health insurance, according to Platformer.
But some people who were laid off on Friday believe they were laid off precisely because they were vulnerable and in need of time off. One former Twitter employee who’s six months pregnant, data science manager Shennan Lu, tweeted that she loved her job and planned to sue.
“There is definitely discrimination here. So I will fight.” Lu tweeted. “My performance has been tracking ahead (top 30%) for the last quarters, and I know for a fact that other male managers don’t have this rating got stayed. See you in the court.”
Twitter has even been trying to hire back some employees who were let go last week, reportedly because some were fired in error, while others will likely have expertise needed to fulfill Musk’s desires for changes to the platform.
Advertisers have fled the social media platform, perplexed by Musk’s haphazard management style, which is all playing out in public on Twitter. And it’s those tweets that have spooked major brands, given that Musk appears to be palling around with the far right and threatening to go “thermonuclear” on brands that might pull advertising from the social media site. Musk tweeted a meme of a Nazi soldier on Monday, though in fairness, he always just steals memes and likely had no idea it was a Nazi.
Musk has also banned several people from Twitter in recent days for “impersonating” the billionaire, something that’s clearly getting under his skin. Musk has previously called himself a free speech absolutist, though doesn’t seem to understand what that phrase actually means, given the way he’s managing Twitter. In fact, Musk recently replied to a tweet by right-wing activist Tom Fitton who suggested anyone calling for an ad boycott of Twitter could be sued for tortious interference, a ridiculous claim that would criminalize protected speech. Musk replied with a simple affirmative, though the blog Above the Law calls Fitton a “moron.”
Twitter’s debt burden is legendary at this point, reportedly reaching somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.2 billion to service per year. But it seems extremely unlikely that a plan to paywall Twitter would actually bring in enough money to cover the cost of lost advertising, let alone make a dent in that $1.2 billion annually.
But what do we know? We’re just chumps who didn’t have $44 billion sitting around to buy Twitter. Well, Musk didn’t have $44 billion either, opting to partner with some of the worst human rights abusers on the planet to fund his deal. But you get the point—Musk is rich, so he must be a genius.