The poop emoji may be gone, but based on a new Wall Street Journal report published Thursday, there’s still a bit of a smell about the way that Elon Musk operates his social media platform X, previously known as Twitter.
The billionaire brought in a respected media executive Linda Yaccarino to take over the CEO role of Twitter in May, but former staffers and others told the Journal that Musk is still stepping on her toes.
While she was successful in getting Musk to stop the auto-reply poop emojis sent to every media outlet that emailed a query to the company — the auto response is now, “We’ll get back to you soon,” even when they won’t — the report suggests Musk is still making most of the decisions at the company he renamed X in July.
Managers still seek Musk’s approval for major engineering decisions, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the process. That may be fitting for his new title of chief technology officer, but they are also reportedly going to Musk about what content appears on the platform, running into the mix of ego and politics that has been on open display since he took over the company.
Musk has also ordered actions or decisions based on his friendships, including tweaking the algorithm to show fewer posts for high profile accounts like that of his pal venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, so they see fewer posts from accounts they don’t follow and reinstating his friend Kanye West, conservative Canadian talker Jordan Peterson and other accounts that had been suspended for content before he arrived.
Yaccarino’s main goal in her new job, meanwhile, is to bring advertisers back to the platform. But Musk complained earlier this week that domestic advertising is down 60% since he bought the company — and he publicly blamed the Anti-Defamation League for talking advertisers out of returning.
Yaccarino and Musk are proving to have different tactics in addressing some of those advertisers’ concerns. Yaccarino, for instance, has met with groups that raise concerns about hateful content on X, including, the Journal’s report said, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which has said the platform is allowing hate speech to proliferate.
Musk, meanwhile, launched a lawsuit against that same group. This week, he threatened to do the same against the ADL.
Yaccarino has disputed suggestions that she’s not in charge, claiming she has “autonomy” in her role.
“Mine and Elon’s roles are very clear,” Yaccarino told CNBC last month. “Elon focuses on product design. He leads a team of extraordinary engineers and focuses on new technology.”
Esther Crawford, who worked with Musk from the time he bought the platform in October until she was laid off in February, said in a lengthy post about her experience at the company that Musk’s moodiness made the job difficult, creating “a culture of fear” since he was so quick to fire people.
“I quickly learned that product and business decisions were nearly always the result of him following his gut instinct,” the post said, “and he didn’t seem compelled to seek out or rely on a lot of data or expertise to inform it.”