Elon Musk Says Laid-Off Workers Given 3 Months to Quit
Twitter laid off half of its staff on Friday but said the cuts were minor to a team tasked with curbing the spread of disinformation, as advertisers pulled cash amid concerns about content moderation.
Tweets made by employees of the communications company said that teams responsible for communications, content management, human rights, and machine learning ethics were among those axed, as well as other product and engineering teams.
The move caps a week of turmoil and uncertainty over the company’s future under new owner Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, who tweeted on Friday that the service was facing a “significant decline in revenue” from advertisers.
Musk blamed the loss of a coalition of civil rights groups that have been pressing Twitter’s top advertisers to take action if they don’t protect content moderation – concerns are mounting ahead of a key congressional election on Tuesday.
As for Twitter’s downsizing, unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing more than $4M/day.
Everyone who quit was given 3 months severance, which is 50% more than required by law.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 4, 2022
After the layoffs, the groups said they increased their pressure and demanded that brands pull their Twitter ads around the world.
“Unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing more than $4M/day,” Musk tweeted about the layoffs, adding that everyone affected was given three months of severance pay.
The company was tight-lipped about the depth of the cuts until overnight, when head of security and integrity Yoel Roth tweeted confirmation of internal plans, seen by Reuters earlier in the week, saying the layoffs would affect about 3,700 people, or 50 percent. of workers.
Among those laid off were 784 workers at the company’s San Francisco headquarters and 199 in San Jose and Los Angeles, according to a report by California employment authorities.
Roth said the cuts affected about 15 percent of his team, which is responsible for preventing the spread of false information and other harmful content, and that the company’s “core rating capabilities” remained intact.
Musk endorsed the security chief last week, citing his “highest integrity” after Roth came under fire for tweets critical of former President Donald Trump years ago.
Musk promised to restore free speech while preventing Twitter from descending into a “hellscape.”
President Joe Biden said on Friday that Musk bought the social media platform Twitter that is spreading lies around the world.
“And now what we are all worried about: Elon Musk goes out and buys an outfit that sends – spreads lies all over the world… There are no more planners in America. There are no planners. How do we expect children to know to understand what is at stake?”
Major advertisers have expressed concern about Musk’s takeover for months.
Companies including General Motors and General Mills have said they have stopped advertising on Twitter while they await information about the platform’s new approach.
Musk tweeted that his team had made no changes to content management and had done “everything we could” to appease the parties. Speaking at an investor conference in New York on Friday, Musk called the pressure from activists “an attack on the First Amendment.”
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.
Access to systems is cut off
The email informing employees of the layoffs was the first communication Twitter employees received from the company’s leadership after Musk took over last week. It was signed only by “Twitter,” without naming Musk or any other officials.
Dozens of employees tweeted that they lost access to work emails and Slack channels overnight before receiving an official layoff notice Friday morning, sparking an outcry from current and former employees on the platform they built.
They shared blue hearts and saved emojis to show support for each other, using the hashtags #OneTeam and #LoveWhereYouWorked, a past-tense version of a slogan employees have used for years to celebrate the company’s work culture.
Twitter’s healthcare team, which was responsible for “highlighting and curating the best events and stories happening on Twitter,” has been axed, the staff wrote.
Shannon Raj Singh, a lawyer who served as Twitter’s acting head of human rights, tweeted that the company’s human rights team had been fired.
Another team focused on research into how Twitter uses machine learning and algorithms, an issue that was important to Musk, was also terminated, according to a tweet from a former Twitter executive.
Senior executives including vice president of engineering Arnaud Weber said goodbye on Twitter on Friday: “Twitter still has a lot of potential to unlock but I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
Employees of Twitter Blue, the premium subscription service that Musk is strengthening, were also let go. An employee with the handle “SillyRobin” who revealed they had been fired, cited Musk’s previous tweet that Twitter Blue would install a “paywall bypass” for certain publishers.
Just to clarify, he fired the team that was working on this,” said the employee.
Doos are closed
Twitter said in its email to employees that offices will be temporarily closed and badge access temporarily suspended “to help ensure the security of individual employees and Twitter systems and customer data.”
Offices in London and Dublin appeared empty on Friday, with no staff in sight. In the London office, any evidence of Twitter in the building was deleted.
A receptionist at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco said several people sneaked in and worked on the upper floors despite a notice to stay away.
A class-action lawsuit was filed Thursday against Twitter by several employees, who say the company was laying off dozens of people without giving the required 60-day notice, in violation of federal and California law.
The lawsuit asked a San Francisco federal court to issue an injunction to prevent Twitter from soliciting fired employees to sign documents without notifying them of the lawsuit.
© Thomson Reuters 2022