Against warnings that Twitter is on the verge of collapse, the social media platform hadn’t died Saturday – at least not yet. But things aren’t necessarily going well for new owner Elon Musk’s goal to re-engineer the company to his tastes and with it the larger, potentially quixotic, goal of re-setting standards of social discourse online.

But while reports of chaos at the company multiply, not all interactions have necessarily proved negative. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly said last week that a tweet by an imposter account over insulin pricing in the US that caused the company’s stock to plunge “probably highlights” a need to bring down the cost of the drug.

In its first public comments since a tweet falsely attributed to the drugmaker – and after Twitter instituted an $8 verification fee – declared: “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.” The tweet caused the company’s share price to tumble and caused panic within the company as it tried to contact Twitter to have it removed.

Almost two weeks later, Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks has defended his company’s insulin pricing – and conceded that it could be lower. The episode, he said, “probably highlights that we have more work to do to bring down the cost of insulin for more people”.

But he also took Twitter to task, saying Eli Lilly wanted the correction to come quickly. “It probably didn’t happen quickly enough to our liking,” Ricks said. “And it demonstrates some of the challenges on that platform.”

More challenges came to light Saturday after Twitter approved the reinstatements of kickboxer Andrew Tate after a 5-year ban, the comedian Kathy Griffin, author Jordan Peterson, and the right wing comedy site Babylon Bee.

Tate, 35, is a self-help personality who was banned from most social media this year in part for claiming that women bear some responsibility for being sexually assaulted. Among Tate’s most misogynistic comments, he has said that women lack “innate responsibility and honor”.

Tate appeared to celebrate his comeback with a post that read, “Mastery is a funny thing. It’s almost as if, on a long enough time scale, losing simply isn’t an option.”

Peterson also celebrated by tweeting a picture of the main character of the horror movie The Shining along with the caption: “I’m back”.

Meanwhile, Musk posted a Twitter poll inviting platform users to vote on the reinstatement of Donald Trump. The poll currently favors the former president’s return 53% to 47%. Musk has not said if the 24-hour poll results of the poll are binding.

“Trump decision has not yet been made,” Musk tweeted. But a tweet soon after the poll was published said: “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” – “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”

Kathie Griffin, Jorden Peterson & Babylon Bee have been reinstated.

Trump decision has not yet been made.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 18, 2022

Separately, the Tesla-Space X billionaire has given Twitter a new motto as “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach”. He said that users won’t be able to say whatever they like and indicated that the company would place curbs on anti-social posts short of banning the author.

“Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter,” Musk said. “You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of the Internet.”

But there are enduring concerns that Twitter – which has seen a huge flux in its workforce lately – might not be able to operate with severe staff reductions.

Nearly half of the staff of 7,500 were fired and the rest were told to commit to Twitter 2.0, and agree to work “long hours at high intensity”, Musk said. Staff that did not opt in would be given three months of severance, he added. Hundreds had walked out by the time the Thursday deadline for the ultimatum had passed.

Even without a coding mistake by a shoestring staff, the system can run only for so long without upkeep, tweeted Ramin Khatibi, a site reliability engineer who left the company three years ago. “The fact that Twitter continues to work is a testament to the thousands of engineer years spent building that reliability. But as engineers, we know that failure is coming without continued investment to protect against the next thing.”

But Musk had already created turmoil when he issued a policy on 10 November that said staff authorized to work remotely could no longer do so, and could request to speak with him by video but also that “only those who cannot get to Twitter HQ or have a family emergency are excused”.

After Thursday’s mass exodus, Musk announced that Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters would be shut from Friday to Monday. Then reversed that missive and called for “anyone who actually writes software” to report to Twitter’s headquarters by Friday afternoon and work Saturday.

While purges and transitional chaos at the company may not be observably easing, Musk told a court in Delaware last week that his reorganization of Twitter is almost done, and he would begin to spend less time on the company by the end of next week.

His attention may be needed elsewhere. On Saturday, it was revealed in a regulatory filing that Musk’s electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla is recalling more than 321,000 cars in the US because tail lights may intermittently fail to come on. The company has said it will use a remote software update to correct the tail-light issue.

That came after Tesla announced a recall of nearly 30,000 Model X cars over an issue that may cause the front passenger air bag to deploy incorrectly. That announcement caused Tesla shares to drop nearly 3% to a near two-year low.

But with the approach of the men’s Fifa World Cup on Sunday, further chaos at Twitter could be coming. Traffic typically spikes during the prestigious soccer tournament, which will add to an increase in Twitter traffic since Musk purchased the company last month. “We just hit another all-time high in Twitter usage,” Musk claimed last week.

The 51-year-old tech mogul, claimed to be the wealthiest man on the planet, also said he was not “super worried” about the exodus of employees at the platform he acquired for $44bn on 28 October.

He added: “Don’t wanna jinx it, but there’s a chance we can keep Twitter alive …”

CBS News wasn’t assured. The network announced on Friday that it would suspend posting on Twitter, making it one of the first major media firms to dump the platform.

“In light of the uncertainty around Twitter, and out of an abundance of caution, CBS News is pausing its activity on the social media site as it continues to monitor the platform,” correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti reported.





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