New Twitter owner Elon Musk has pulled more than 50 of his trusted Tesla
employees, mostly software engineers from the Autopilot team, into his Twitter takeover.
Musk, who is CEO of automaker Tesla and reusable rocket maker SpaceX, completed the $44 billion acquisition of Twitter on Oct. 28 and made his mark there immediately. He fired the company’s CEO, chief financial officer, policy and legal team leaders right away, and has also dissolved Twitter’s board of directors.
According to internal records, employees from Musk’s other companies are now authorized to work at Twitter, including more than 50 from Tesla, two from the Boring Company (which is building underground tunnels) and one from Neuralink (which is developing a brain-computer interface).
Some of Musk’s friends, advisors and backers, including the head of his family office Jared Birchall, angel investor Jason Calacanis, and founding PayPal chief operating officer and venture capitalist David Sacks, are also involved. So are two people who share Musk’s last name, James and Andrew Musk, who have worked at Palantir and Neuralink, respectively.
Among the dozens who Elon Musk enlisted specifically from Tesla are: director of software development Ashok Elluswamy, director of Autopilot and TeslaBot engineering Milan Kovac, senior director of software engineering Maha Virduhagiri; Pete Scheutzow, a senior staff technical program manager, and Jake Nocon, who is part of Tesla’s surveillance unit, as a senior manager of security intelligence.
Nocon previously worked for Uber
and Nisos, a security company that had a multimillion-dollar contract with Tesla to identify insider threats, and monitor critics of the company.
At Twitter, Musk is counting on his lieutenants and loyalists to decide who and what to cut or keep at the social network.
Elon Musk, who calls himself “Chief Twit” but is officially CEO and sole director is also pressing them to learn everything they can about Twitter as quickly as possible, from source code to content moderation and data-privacy requirements, so he can redesign the platform.
Musk has billed himself as a free speech absolutist, but he has to balance those wishes with laws and business realities. He said in an open letter to advertisers last week as he was taking over the company: “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences.”
It is not immediately clear how Tesla employees are expected to split their schedules between the automaker and Twitter.
Typically, when Tesla employees work for other Elon Musk ventures, usually SpaceX or the Boring Company, they can get paid by the other venture as a consultant. Some of Musk’s employees have full-time roles at more than one of his businesses. For example, Tesla Vice President of Materials Charlie Kuehmann, is concurrently a vice president at SpaceX.
Managers at Twitter have instructed some employees to work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, in order to hit Musk’s aggressive deadlines, according to internal communications. The sprint orders have come without any discussion about overtime pay or comp time, or about job security. Task completion by the early November deadline is seen as a make-or-break matter for their careers at Twitter.
In an atmosphere of fear and distrust, many Twitter employees have stopped communicating with each other on internal systems about workplace issues. What’s more, some of Twitter’s Slack channels have gone nearly silent.
Meanwhile, Musk and his inner circle have been plumbing archived messages in the systems, ostensibly looking for people to fire and budgets or projects to slash.
On Sunday night, in a display of his unfettered access to internal information at the company, CEO Elon Musk posted a screenshot to his 112 million listed followers on Twitter.
The screenshot depicted comments made by Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, Yoel Roth, in May 2022. At the time, Musk was trying to get out of his agreement to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share.
In court, and in public, Musk had vociferously accused Twitter of faking metrics, specifically of playing down the amount of spam, fake accounts and harmful bots that exist on the platform.
In the internal message that Musk made public, Roth wrote disparagingly of a person involved with the business named Amir, and also remarked, that if Amir continued to “BS” him or others about objectives and key results, Twitter would be “literally doing what Elon is accusing us of doing.”
Musk alleged in a tweet that, “Wachtell & Twitter board deliberately hid this evidence from the court.” He also appeared to threaten further legal action, writing: “Stay tuned, more to come…”
Representatives for Twitter, Tesla and the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz have yet to comment.