Twitter laid off tens of thousands of employees across the company on Friday in a severe round of cost cutting that could potentially disrupt how one of the world’s most influential platforms operates just one week after being acquired by billionaire Elon Musk.
Several Twitter employees began posting on the platform Thursday night and Friday morning, claiming that they had been locked out of their company email accounts prior to the planned layoff notification. Some also used blue hearts and salute emojis to show they were working at the company.
Employees from departments such as Ethical AI, Marketing and Communication, Search, Public Policy, Wellness, and others had tweeted about being let go by Friday morning. Employee posts say that members of the Curation Team, who help make sure that the platform has accurate information, including about elections, were also let go.
“I just got remotely logged out of my work laptop and removed from Slack,” one Twitter user wrote on the platform. “It’s a shame it had to end this way.”
Another employee claimed that she and other members of Twitter’s Human Rights Team were fired. The employee went on to say that she is proud of the team’s work “to protect those at risk in global conflicts and crises such as Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Ukraine, and to defend the needs of those who are particularly vulnerable to human rights abuse because of their social media presence, such as journalists and human rights defenders.”
Simon Balmain, a former Twitter Senior Community Manager who was fired on Friday, told CNN that he lost access to Slack, email, and other internal systems around 8 hours before receiving an email on Friday morning officially informing him of his dismissal. He went on to say that the layoff email “still didn’t provide any details really” as to why he’d been let go.
“The extreme solidarity we’ve seen from people in the company, people in the same position, and people who left the company in years gone by has absolutely mitigated the waves of annoyance and frustration and all that stuff,” Balmain said. “It’s like a massive support network, which has been absolutely incredible.”
One laid-off Twitter employee told CNN on Friday that some workers are relieved to have been let go. “Being safe would have been punishment for me,” the employee explained.
While Twitter employees were complaining about being laid off, Musk appeared at an investor conference on Friday for a friendly interview and spoke about making cheaper electric vehicles and his ambitions to go to Mars. During the interview, Musk stated, “I Tried To Get Out Of The Deal,” but later added, “I Think There Is A Tremendous Amount Of Potential… And I believe it has the potential to be one of the most valuable companies in the world.”
The interviewer said that Musk had fired “half of Twitter.” Musk nodded but didn’t say anything else.
In a series of tweets Friday evening, Yoel Roth, Head of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Team, confirmed a 50% reduction in overall headcount. According to Roth, the layoffs eliminated 15% of the company’s trust and safety team, resulting in reduced customer service but little change in content moderation.
Musk seemed to say that the huge layoffs were necessary for a company that, like other social media companies, was having “revenue challenges” before he bought it because advertisers were rethinking spending because they were worried about a recession.
Musk also said that after the acquisition, “a number of major advertisers have stopped spending money on Twitter.”
Prior to Musk’s takeover, Twitter employed approximately 7,500 people, implying that approximately 3,700 people were laid off. Musk is trying to improve the company’s bottom line after taking on a lot of debt to pay for his $44 billion acquisition. This is why he is letting people go.
Employees were notified via email on Thursday evening that they would receive a notice informing them of their employment status by 12 p.m. ET on Friday.
“If Your Employment Is Unaffected, You Will Receive Notification Via Your Twitter Email,” according to a copy of the email obtained by CNN. “If your job is affected, you will be told what to do next through your personal email.”
The email also said that the company’s offices “will be temporarily closed and all badge access will be suspended” to “help ensure the safety” of employees and Twitter’s systems.
The email concluded by acknowledging that the workforce will face an “extremely challenging experience.”
Several Twitter employees filed a class action lawsuit on Thursday night, alleging that Twitter is in violation of the federal and California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Acts (Warn Act) after already laying off some employees.
The Warn Act says that employers with more than 100 workers must give written notice 60 days in advance of a mass layoff that affects 50 or more workers at a single place of work.
“Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, has stated unequivocally that he believes complying with federal labour laws is trivial.” Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, told CNN. “We have filed this federal complaint to ensure that Twitter is held accountable to our laws and to prevent Twitter employees from signing away their rights unknowingly.”
As of midday Friday, California’s Employment Development Department confirmed to CNN that no warning notices had been filed by Twitter.
Separately, other labour lawyers told CNN on Friday that they had started receiving inquiries from Twitter employees who were wondering if their terminations were unlawfully discriminatory or retaliatory.
“Former Twitter Employees Have Reached Out To Us Regarding Their Layoffs And Circumstances, And So We’re Looking At All The Issues—Beyond Appropriate Notice—And To Make Sure The Employee Wasn’t Laid Off Due To Their Membership In A Protected Category,” Chauniqua Young, A Partner At The Law Firm Outten & Golden, said.
Aside from the possibility of lawsuits because of the layoffs, other legal experts think that the way Musk handled the cuts could cause him more problems in the future, whether it’s getting new employees or keeping the ones he already has happy.
“Once you treat people like this, they remember it,” said Terri Gerstein, a labour and work life programme and economic policy institute fellow at Harvard Law School. “Of the remaining people, I am certain that none of them feel secure in their jobs, and I would be shocked if the remaining people are not updating their resumes right now or discussing the formation of a union.”
According to two people familiar with the decision, Musk began his tenure at Twitter by firing CEO Parag Agrawal and two other executives.
And, in less than a week since Musk’s acquisition of the company, the company’s C-suite appears to have been almost entirely cleared out through a combination of firings and resignations. Musk also disbanded Twitter’s previous board of directors.
On Friday, many employees summed up their feelings with the hashtag #lovewhereyouworked, a past-tense play on one previously popular among Twitter employees.
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