SAN FRANCISCO – The widespread departure of Twitter’s staff leaves the site susceptible to a wide variety of bugs and other problems. Technologists forecast that at some point in the future, the social network will experience a significant malfunction. It’s only a question of when it will happen.
Since Mr. Elon Musk took over as CEO at the tail end of October, the staff of the social network has been reduced to a fraction of its previous size as a result of layoffs and resignations.
This week, Mr. Musk gave staff the option to stay with the company and take on a more “hardcore” version of their positions or resign; a surprising number of people chose to depart.
According to persons who are aware with the situation, multiple teams that were essential for keeping the service up and running have either been fully disbanded or are borrowing engineers from other groups. This comprises infrastructure teams whose job it is to ensure that the primary feed continues to function properly and to keep tweet databases updated.
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Mr. Glenn Hope, an engineer who previously worked at Facebook and Instagram and who earlier tweeted a list of probable situations that could cause problems on the social network, described the situation as “very grim,” saying, “It’s a pretty dark picture.” “The amount of indigenous knowledge that has been lost is truly staggering, and it may perhaps be unmatched.”
That does not mean that Twitter will suddenly and completely cease operations. Technologists believe that it is more likely than not that the surviving staff will be unable to correct faults in the code, and as a result, the website will begin to lose some functionality or will be susceptible to a massive hack.
The majority of the time, computer servers are not set to operate automatically. It takes a lot of different kinds of software to keep a platform like Twitter running, from the front-end website that people scroll to the back-end databases that store billions of tweets. These databases can get stressed out during major global events like the World Cup, which is happening this weekend.
Due to the intricacy of these systems, it is possible that they will require ongoing modification, maintenance, and knowledge of the underlying architecture of how things are organized. According to Dr.
Chester Wisniewski, chief research scientist at the cybersecurity business Sophos, the situation becomes much more problematic when software development was hurried or carried out under conditions that were less-than-ideal.
Dr. Wisniewski described the situation as “a horrible scenario for nearly any organization, but especially a technology one.”
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Rot Over Time
According to Mr. Alec Muffett, a software engineer who has worked in host and network security for more than 30 years, including at Facebook, it is natural for network security at a platform like Twitter to rot over time, as flaws in the company’s code base are found and nobody is left to fix them promptly.
In other words, it is inevitable that network security will deteriorate over time. According to him, the most likely threats to the integrity of Twitter’s network right now are breaches of privacy and takeovers of user accounts.
And because there are considerably fewer engineers still working for the firm to tackle operations problems, there is a chance that one of Twitter’s essential systems will fail.
According to Mr. Muffett, “Like a table losing a leg, crucial pieces of the site — or maybe the whole site – will fall over.” For example, users may no longer be able to retweet or log in to their accounts.
People can stop using a website altogether if they find it to be untrustworthy. Advertisers may also lose faith that the promotions they are paying for will be displayed in front of the appropriate individuals, which poses an additional risk to Twitter’s financial future.
According to Mr. Hope, there are other issues in addition to maintaining the availability of the site.
It is possible that Twitter will have a more difficult time dealing with difficult issues now that it has fewer employees. These issues include content-takedown requests from foreign governments, the physical security of Twitter’s data centers, and major events that cause spikes in traffic and further tax Twitter’s systems.
The danger of causing harm to users is another concern. As Mr. Muffett put it, if there aren’t enough adults in the room to constrain the poor behavior of some users, it could lead to an increase in disturbing trending content and abuse, further alienating visitors and advertisers.
If there aren’t enough adults in the room to constrain the poor behavior of some users, it could lead to an increase in abusive content.
According to those who are aware with the situation, a significant portion of the company’s trust and safety team decided against continuing their job at Twitter after Mr. Musk’s deadline for employees on Thursday.
According to a person familiar with the situation, around half of the company’s information operations and threat disruptions teams, which are responsible for putting an end to foreign disinformation efforts on the platform, have also departed.
This leaves large portions of Twitter’s global audience without content moderation, including the entire Asia-Pacific region, the person said, with the exception of one contractor who was hired to help with spam in the Korean market. The contractor was hired to assist with moderation in the Korean market.