Twitter Inc began a slew of layoffs on Friday, with employees being notified of their job status by email after they blocked access to offices and shut down employees’ access to internal systems overnight.
The move follows a week of chaos and uncertainty about the company’s future under new owner Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, who tweeted Friday that the service is a “huge drop in sales‘ while advertisers cut spending.
Musk did not confirm or correct investor Ron Baron at a Friday conference in New York when he asked the billionaire Tesla CEO how much money he would save after he “fired half of Twitter”.
Musk responded by talking about Twitter’s cost and revenue challenges, blaming a coalition of civil rights groups urging major companies 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 evening, seen by the Reuters news agency, announcing the cuts. which arrived on Friday.
The company has remained silent on the depth of the cuts, though internal plans reviewed by Reuters this week indicated Musk wanted to cut about 3,700 Twitter employees, or about half of its workforce.
According to tweets from Twitter employees, employees working in engineering, communications, product management, content curation and machine learning ethics were among those affected by the layoffs.
Shannon Raj Singh, a lawyer who was acting head of human rights at Twitter, tweeted Friday that the company’s entire human rights team had been fired.
Musk has vowed to restore free speech and prevent Twitter from descending into a “hell landscape”. However, his reassurances have not reassured major advertisers, who have been voicing concerns about his acquisition for months.
Volkswagen AG advised its brands to pause paid advertising on Twitter until further notice in the wake of Musk’s acquisition, it said Friday. The 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 more major advertisers preparing to announce they would pause ads on the platform.
Musk tweeted that his team had made no changes to content moderation and had “did everything” to appease the groups. “Extremely disturbed! It is (civil rights groups) that are trying to destroy free speech in America.”
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Eddie Perez, a manager of the Twitter civil integrity team who quit in September, said he fears the layoffs so close to the United States midterm elections could cause disinformation to “spread like wildfire,” with especially during the post-election vote counting period.
“I find it hard to believe that it has no material impact on their ability to manage the amount of disinformation out there,” he said, adding that there may not be enough employees to hit it back.
Dozens of staffers tweeted that they had lost access to corporate email and Slack channels before receiving an official notice, which they took as a sign that they had been fired.
From different parts of the worldthey tweeted blue hearts and greeting emojis to support each other, using the hashtags #OneTeam and #LoveWhereYouWorked, a past version of a slogan employees have used for years to celebrate the company’s work culture.
Twitter’s curating team, which is responsible for “spotting and contextualizing the best events and stories unfolding on Twitter,” has been fired, employees on the platform said. The company’s communications team in India has also been laid off, according to a Twitter executive in Asia.
A team that focused on investigating how Twitter used algorithms, an issue that was a priority for Musk, was also eliminated. according to a tweet from a former senior manager at Twitter.
Senior executives, including Vice President of Engineering Arnaud Weber, also took their leave on Twitter on Friday: “Twitter still has a lot of unlocked potential, but I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” he tweeted.
Employees of Twitter Blue, a premium subscription service, were also fired. An employee with the “SillyRobin” handle who indicated they had been fired quoted Musk’s previous tweet saying that Twitter Blue would include a “paywall bypass” for certain publishers.
“To be clear, he fired the team that was working on this,” the employee said.
Twitter’s head of Safety & Integrity, Yoel Roth, appeared to have kept his job, as did Vice President of Product Keith Coleman, who launched a tool called Birdwatch that allowed users to write notes about tweets they consider misleading.
Last week, Musk approved Roth, citing his “high integrity” after Roth was yelled at years earlier over tweets critical of former US President Donald Trump. Musk also tweeted that he likes Birdwatch.
Roth and Coleman did not respond to requests for comment. In a tweetRoth said, “Tweeps: My DMs are always open to you. Tell me how I can help.”
Twitter said in its email to staff that offices would be temporarily closed and access to the badge would be suspended “to ensure the security of every employee, Twitter systems and customer data”.
Offices in London and Dublin appeared deserted on Friday with no staff in sight. At the London office, any evidence that Twitter had ever occupied the building was erased.
A receptionist at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco said a few people had trickled in and were working on the floors above, despite being told to stay away.
A class action was filed Thursday in the US — preemptively on Thursday night — against Twitter by its employees, alleging that the company was carrying out mass layoffs without giving the required 60 days notice, in violation of US federal and California law. , Bloomberg News reported.
The lawsuit also asked the San Francisco federal court to issue an injunction banning Twitter from asking fired employees to sign documents without notifying them of the pending case.
The speed of the layoffs could also open up Musk and Twitter to discrimination claims if it turns out that, for example, women, people of color or older employees are disproportionately affected.
Labor attorney Peter Rahbar said most employers “take great care in taking layoffs of this magnitude” to ensure they are justified and not unfairly discriminate or draw unwanted attention to the company.
“For some reason, he wants to fire half of the company without taking any due care about what these people do or who they are and without any respect for the law,” Rahbar said.
The layoffs come at a difficult time for social media companies as advertisers scale back and new entrants — mainly TikTok — threaten older platforms like Twitter and Facebook.