Elon Musk has pulled more than 50 Tesla employees into Twitter

The Twitter profile page belonging to Elon Musk is seen on an Apple iPhone mobile phone.

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New Twitter owner Elon Musk pulled 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 reusable rocket maker SpaceX, completed the $44 billion acquisition of Twitter on Oct. 28 and immediately made his mark there. He immediately fired the company’s CEO, CFO, policy and legal team leaders, and also dissolved Twitter’s board of directors.

According to internal records seen by CNBC, 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 builds underground tunnels) and one from Neuralink (which is to develop a brain) -computer interface).

Some of Musk’s friends, advisers and supporters, including the head of his family office Jared Birchall, angel investor Jason Calacanis, and PayPal’s founding COO and venture capitalist David Sacks, are also involved. So are two people who share Musk’s last name, James and Andrew Musk, who worked at Palantir and Neuralink, respectively.

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Among the dozens Elon Musk tapped specifically at 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 relies on his lieutenants and loyalists to decide who and what to cut or keep from the social network.

He’s also pushing 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, multiple Twitter employees told CNBC over the weekend.

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Musk has billed himself as 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: “Obviously Twitter cannot become a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said without consequence.”

It’s 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 companies, usually SpaceX or the Boring Company, they may be paid by the other company as a consultant. Some of Musk’s employees have full-time roles at more than one of his businesses. For example, Tesla’s vice president of materials, Charlie Kuehmann, is simultaneously a vice president at SpaceX.

At other times, two Tesla employees told CNBC, workers at the electric car maker are pressured to help with projects at its other companies for no additional pay because it’s considered good for their careers, or because the work is considered becomes than helping with a related party. transaction or project.

Tesla is facing serious scrutiny over the technology built and maintained by its Autopilot team, namely its driver assistance systems, 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 broke laws and misled consumers about Tesla’s driver assistance systems, which are still in development and not the company’s self-driving cars.

Meanwhile, the federal vehicle safety authority, NHTSA, continues to investigate whether Tesla driver assistance systems may have contained defects that contributed to or caused crashes. The way Tesla marketed these systems on social media, including Twitter, is part of the scope of at least one NHTSA investigation.

Code reviews and 12-hour shifts

Multiple Twitter employees told CNBC over the weekend that Tesla employees now involved with Twitter in code review at the social network, even though their skills working on Autopilot and other Tesla software and hardware do not 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 speak to the press about internal matters, and feared retaliation.

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For example, most engineers in car companies, even the tech giant Tesla, do not have experience designing and operating search engines and platforms that are broadly accessible to the public.

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

Twitter also has more exposure to international regulations around hate speech and data privacy, for example, in particular the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.

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

The employees said they were worried about being fired without cause or warning, rather than being laid off with severance. Some are worried they won’t be able to reap the benefits of stock options scheduled to vest in the first week of November, according to documentation seen by CNBC.

Meanwhile, Twitter employees said they have yet to receive specific plans from Musk and his team, and are largely in the dark about possible headcount cuts within their groups, budgets and long-term strategies.

However, Musk has set almost impossible deadlines for some items to do.

One immediate project is to redesign the company’s opt-in software, called Twitter Blue, and the company’s verification system (sometimes known as “blue checks” for the way they’re labeled on the service). Employees 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 give verification points to the accounts of users who are paid subscribers, and will remove verification from accounts that don’t pay for Twitter Blue.

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Executives at Twitter have ordered some employees to work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, to meet Musk’s aggressive deadlines, according to internal communications. The rush orders came without any discussion about overtime pay or compensatory 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 mistrust, many Twitter employees stopped communicating with each other on internal systems about workplace issues. What’s more, some of Twitter’s Slack channels have gone nearly silent, several employees told CNBC.

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

On Sunday night, in a show 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 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 deal to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share.

Musk has vociferously accused Twitter in court and publicly of falsifying metrics, specifically reducing the amount of spam, fake accounts and malicious bots that exist on the platform.

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

Musk claimed in a tweet that, “Wachtell & Twitter board deliberately withheld 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 not yet responded to requests for comment.


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