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Elon Musk, Plus a Circle of Confidants, Tightens Control Over Twitter

The billionaire and a group of his friends and advisers are working on layoff plans and how to swiftly change Twitter’s product, said people with knowledge of the matter.

Elon Musk and a group of his advisers have tightened their grip over Twitter, meeting with company executives to work on layoffs, ordering up product changes, talking with advertisers and reviewing content moderation policies, according to more than a dozen current and former employees involved in the efforts.

The priorities for the world’s richest man and his advisers at Twitter are twofold, five of the people said: They are working on how to trim the company’s ranks while also exploring a slew of changes to Twitter’s mobile app.

For now, the timing and scope of layoffs remains fluid as lists of the top and lower performers at the company are finalized, the people said. Mr. Musk’s advisers have also assigned a team of Twitter’s engineers to work on its “verification” program, the system that doles out badges to high-profile or notable users to confirm their profiles’ authenticity. Twitter could charge users $20 a month to retain their verified status, two people with knowledge of the discussions said.

Mr. Musk, 51, flew to New York on Sunday after spending much of last week at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco, according to one person familiar with his movements and a Twitter account that tracks the location of his private jet. Some of his trusted confidants remain in San Francisco, the people said, including David Sacks, a venture capitalist, and Sriram Krishnan, a former Twitter product leader and partner at the investment firm Andreessen Horowitz, which invested in Mr. Musk’s buyout of Twitter.

Other advisers, many of whom were in a “war room” with Mr. Musk at Twitter’s headquarters last week, include Jared Birchall, the head of Mr. Musk’s family office, Alex Spiro, his personal lawyer, and Jason Calacanis, a tech investor and podcaster, said six people with knowledge of the matter. Mr. Musk also brought about 50 engineers, product leaders and staff members to Twitter from his other companies, such as the electric carmaker Tesla, the tunnel company the Boring Company and rocket maker SpaceX, said four people with knowledge of the matter and internal documents viewed by The New York Times.

Their actions have thrown Twitter’s 7,500 employees into upheaval, with current and former workers trading private messages and forming group chats to discuss what is happening at the company. Some are calling Mr. Musk’s advisers “Elon’s goons.” Many are worried about whether they will still have jobs.

Mr. Musk, who has a reputation as an aggressive manager, has moved quickly to overhaul Twitter since he completed the $44 billion buyout of the company on Thursday. He immediately fired the company’s chief executive, chief financial officer and others. He also said he would form a content moderation council to decide what kinds of posts to keep up on Twitter and what to take down, and said he would not instantly reinstate users who had been banned from the platform.

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