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Elon Musk has pulled more than 50 Tesla employees to Twitter

Elon Musk’s Twitter profile page can be seen on an Apple iPhone mobile phone.

Nurfoto | Nurfoto | Getty Images

New Twitter owner Elon Musk has more than 50 of his trusted Tesla employees, mostly software engineers from the Autopilot team, in its Twitter takeover, CNBC has learned.

Musk, who is CEO of automaker Tesla and maker of reusable rockets SpaceX, completed its $44 billion acquisition of Twitter on Oct. 28 and immediately made his mark there. He immediately fired the company’s CEO, chief financial officer, policy and legal team leaders, and also dissolved Twitter’s board of directors.

According to internal data reviewed by CNBC, employees of other Musk’s companies are now authorized to work at Twitter, including more than 50 from Tesla, two from the Boring Company (which builds underground tunnels) and one from Neuralink (which develops a brain computer interface).

Several of Musk’s friends, advisors and backers, including family office head Jared Birchall, angel investor Jason Calacanis, and PayPal founder, 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 Elon Musk has specifically engaged 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, senior technical program manager, and Jake Nocon, who is part of Tesla’s surveillance unit, as senior manager of security intelligence.

Nocon previously worked for Uber and Nisos, a security firm that had a multimillion-dollar contract with Tesla to identify threats from within and audit critics of the company.

At Twitter, Musk counts on his lieutenants and loyalists to decide who and what to cut or keep on the social network.

He also urges them to learn everything about Twitter as soon as possible, from source code to content moderation and data privacy requirements, so that he can redesign the platform, several Twitter employees told CNBC this weekend.

Musk has labeled himself a free speech absolutist, but he must balance those wishes with laws and business realities. He said in an open letter to advertisers last week when he took over the company: “Twitter can’t become a free hell, where everything can be said without consequences.”

It’s not immediately clear how Tesla employees should split their schedules between the automaker and Twitter.

When Tesla employees work for other Elon Musk companies, usually SpaceX or the Boring Company, they can usually be paid as consultants by the other company. Some of Musk’s employees have full-time jobs at more than one of his companies. Tesla Vice President of Materials Charlie Kuehmann, for example, is also Vice President at SpaceX at the same time.

At other times, two Tesla employees told CNBC, employees of the electric car maker are pressured to help with projects at its other companies without extra pay because it’s seen as good for their career, or because the job is considered to be good. as assisting in a related party transaction or project.

Tesla is under serious scrutiny around the technology built and maintained by its Autopilot team, namely its driver assistance systems, which are marketed as Autopilot, FSD and FSD Beta.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice, and the California Department of Motor Vehicles are all investigating whether Tesla or Musk have broken laws and misled consumers about Tesla’s driver assistance systems, which are still in development and the company’s cars aren’t self-propelled. the driving.

Meanwhile, the federal vehicle safety agency, NHTSA, continues to investigate whether Tesla’s driver assistance systems may contain defects that contributed to or caused collisions. The way Tesla has marketed these systems on social media, including Twitter, is part of the scope of at least one NHTSA investigation.

12 Hour Code Reviews and Services

Several Twitter employees told CNBC over the weekend that Tesla employees on Twitter have now been involved in code review on the social network, although their skills working on Autopilot and other Tesla software and hardware don’t directly overlap with the languages. and systems used to build and maintain the social network. These employees asked not to be named because they are not authorized to talk to the press about internal affairs, and feared reprisals.

For example, most engineers in auto companies, even the tech-savvy Tesla, have no experience designing and operating search engines and platforms that are widely accessible to the public.

Twitter has multiple codebases with millions of lines of code in each, and countless 10- or even 100-query-per-second (QPS) systems that support it. At Tesla, Python is one of the preferred scripting languages, and at Twitter, programmers have used Scala extensively.

Twitter is also more exposed to international regulations surrounding hate speech and data privacy, most notably the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.

Twitter employees who were there before Musk took over said they have been asked to show his teams all sorts of technical documentation, to justify their work and the work of their teams, and to explain their value within the company. The threat of being fired looms if they fail to impress, they said.

The workers said they are concerned about being fired without cause or warning, rather than being fired with layoffs. Some are concerned they won’t be able to reap the benefits of stock options scheduled to vest in the first week of November, according to documentation reviewed by CNBC.

Meanwhile, the Twitter employees said they have not yet received specific plans from Musk and his team, and are largely in the dark about possible cuts in staffing levels within their groups, budgets and long-term strategies.

However, Musk has set near-impossible deadlines for some of the tasks on the list.

An immediate project is to redesign the company’s subscription software, called Twitter Blue, and the company’s verification system (sometimes known as “blue checks” because of the way they’re marked on the service). Workers say Musk wants that work done by the first week of November. The Verge previously reported that Musk wants to charge $20 per user per month and only provide verification tokens to the accounts of users who are paying subscribers, and remove verification from accounts that don’t pay for Twitter Blue.

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Managers at Twitter have instructed some employees to work 12-hour shifts seven days a week to meet Musk’s aggressive deadlines, according to internal communications. The sprint orders came without any discussion of overtime, pay time or job security. Job completion by the early November deadline is seen as a matter of make-or-break for their career at Twitter.

In an atmosphere of fear and mistrust, many Twitter employees no longer communicate with each other on internal systems about workplace issues. In addition, some of Twitter’s Slack channels have gone almost silent, several employees told CNBC.

Meanwhile, Musk and his inner circle have been pouring archived messages into the systems, ostensibly looking for people to fire and cut budgets or projects.

On Sunday night, in a display of his unfettered access to internal information at the company, CEO Elon Musk (who calls himself “Chief Twit” but is officially CEO and sole director) posted a screenshot to his 112 million listed followers on Twitter.

The screenshot showed comments from Twitter’s head of security 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 a share.

In court and publicly, Musk had vociferously accused Twitter of falsifying statistics, most notably downplaying the amount of spam, fake accounts and malicious bots that exist on the platform.

In the internal message Musk made public, Roth wrote disparagingly about a person involved with the company named Amir, also noting that if Amir continued to “BS” him or others about goals and key achievements, Twitter “literally would.” what Elon accuses us of this.”

Musk claimed in a tweet that, “Wachtell & Twitter board deliberately concealed this evidence from the court.” He also appeared to threaten further legal action, writing: “Stay tuned, more to come…”

Representatives from Twitter, Tesla and the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz have not yet responded to requests for comment.

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