Twitter Inc launched a sizable round of layoffs on Friday, alerting employees to their job status via email after blocking entrances to offices and cutting off workers’ access to internal systems overnight.
The move follows a week of chaos and uncertainty over the future of the company under new owner Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, who tweeted on Friday that the service was experiencing a “massive drop in income” while advertisers withdrew spending.
Musk did not confirm or correct investor Ron Baron at a conference in New York on Friday when he asked the billionaire Tesla CEO how much money he would save after “firing half of Twitter.”
Musk responded by speaking out about Twitter’s cost and revenue challenges, blaming a coalition of civil rights groups that urged big business to stop advertising on the platform. Musk has not commented on the layoffs themselves.
“In an effort to put Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday,” Twitter said in an email to staff on Thursday night, seen by the Reuters news agency, announcing the cuts that came on Friday.
The company was silent on the depth of the cuts, although internal plans reviewed by Reuters this week indicated that Musk was seeking to cut around 3,700 Twitter employees, or about half of the workforce.
Staff working in engineering, communications, product, content curation, and machine learning ethics were among those affected by the layoffs, according to tweets from Twitter staff.
Shannon Raj Singh, a lawyer who was Twitter’s acting human rights chief, tweeted on Friday that the company’s entire human rights team had been fired.
Musk has vowed to restore free speech while preventing Twitter from descending into a “hellscape.” However, his assurances have failed to calm big advertisers, who have expressed fears about his acquisition for months.
Volkswagen AG recommended its brands suspend paid advertising on Twitter until further notice in the wake of the Musk acquisition, it said on Friday. His comments echoed similar comments from other companies, including General Motors Co and General Mills Inc.
Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, a left-wing media watchdog and part of the civil rights coalition, said he knew of two other big advertisers who were preparing to announce that they would stop ads on the platform.
Musk tweeted that his team had made no changes to content moderation and had done “everything possible” to appease the groups. “Extremely messy! They are (civil rights groups) trying to destroy free speech in America.”
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Eddie Perez, manager of Twitter’s civic integrity team who resigned in September, said he fears firings so close to the US midterm elections could allow misinformation to “spread like wildfire,” particularly during the post-election vote counting period.
“I find it hard to believe that it doesn’t have a material impact on their ability to handle the amount of disinformation out there,” he said, adding that there simply may not be enough employees to combat it.
Dozens of employees tweeted that they had lost access to work email and Slack channels before receiving an official notice, which they interpreted as a sign that they had been laid off.
Of different parts of the worldthey tweeted blue hearts and greeting emojis expressing their support for one another, using the hashtags #OneTeam and #LoveWhereYouWorked, a past-tense version of a slogan employees had used for years to celebrate the company’s work culture.
Twitter’s curation team, which is responsible for “highlighting and contextualizing the best events and stories unfolding on Twitter,” had been laid off, employees at the platform said. The company’s communications team in India was also laid off, according to a Twitter executive in Asia.
Also removed was a team that focused on investigating how Twitter used algorithms, a topic that was a priority for Musk. according to a tweet from a former Twitter senior manager.
Top executives, including VP of engineering Arnaud Weber, also said goodbye on Twitter on Friday: “Twitter still has a lot of potential unlocked, but I’m proud of what we achieved,” he tweeted.
Employees at Twitter Blue, a premium subscription service, were also laid off. An employee with the username “SillyRobin” who had indicated they had been laid off, tweeted a quote from Musk’s earlier tweet saying that Twitter Blue would include a “paywall bypass” for certain publishers.
“Just to be clear, he fired the team that was working on this,” the employee said.
Twitter Security and Integrity chief Yoel Roth appeared to have kept his job, as did VP of Product Keith Coleman, who launched a tool called Birdwatch for users to write notes on tweets they identify as misleading.
Musk last week endorsed Roth, citing his “high integrity” after Roth came under fire for tweets criticizing former US President Donald Trump years earlier. Musk also tweeted that he likes Birdwatch.
Roth and Coleman did not respond to requests for comment. in a cheep, Roth said: “Tweeps: My DMs are always open to you. Tell me how I can help.”
Twitter said in its email to employees that offices would be temporarily closed and access to credentials suspended “to help ensure the security of each employee, as well as Twitter’s systems and customer data.”
Offices in London and Dublin appeared deserted on Friday, with no employees in sight. At the London office, any evidence that Twitter had ever occupied the building was erased.
A receptionist at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco said some people had arrived and were working on the upper floors despite notices to stay away.
A class action lawsuit was filed in the US on Thursday, pre-emptively Thursday night, against Twitter by its employees, who argued that the company was conducting mass layoffs without providing the required 60-day notice, in violation of California and US federal law. , reported Bloomberg News.
The lawsuit also asked the federal court in San Francisco to issue an order restricting Twitter from asking fired employees to sign documents without informing them of the pending case.
The speed of the layoffs could also expose Musk and Twitter to claims of discrimination if it turns out, for example, that they disproportionately affected women, people of color or older workers.
Labor lawyer Peter Rahbar said most employers “are very careful when making layoffs of this magnitude” to make sure they are justified and don’t unfairly discriminate or draw unwanted attention to the company.
“For whatever reason, he wants to fire half the company without doing due diligence on what these people do or who they are and without regard to the law,” Rahbar said.
The layoffs come at a difficult time for social media companies as advertisers are downsizing and newcomers, mainly TikTok, threaten older platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
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