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Friday, Feb 03, 2023

Twitter mass layoffs begin as Musk slashes costs

Twitter mass layoffs begin as Musk slashes costs

Thousands of Twitter employees were ordered to stay home on Friday to await a bracing round of layoffs that could see half of the payroll axed as new owner Elon Musk launches his major overhaul of the company.

A week after the billionaire took over the company promising sweeping changes, Twitter workers around the world have been checking two email addresses to find out if they still have a job, according to an internal memo sent to employees and seen by Bloomberg.

An email to their work account means they’ve been retained. A letter in their personal inbox means they’ve been fired.

Twitter promised to notify workers by 9am San Francisco time on Friday, and has temporarily closed offices and suspended badge access “to help ensure the safety of each employee as well as Twitter systems and customer data,” the memo said

The cull is part of Musk's push to find ways to pay for the mammoth $44-billion deal for which he took on billions of dollars in debt and sold $15.5 billion worth of shares in Tesla, his electric car company.

Musk, the owner of Tesla and SpaceX, has been scrambling to find new ways for Twitter to make money after his mammoth buyout, including charging users $8 a month for verified accounts.

This would help overcome the potential loss of advertisers, Twitter’s main source of revenue, with many of the world’s top brands putting their ad buys on hold, spooked by Musk’s well-known disdain for content moderation.

To mitigate concerns, Musk has vowed that the site would not become a "free-for-all hellscape” though this was quickly followed by a Musk retweet that relayed a conspiracy theory about the assault on the husband of the US House Speaker.

Though extremely influential with opinion-makers and celebrities, the California company has long struggled to generate profit and has failed to keep pace with Meta-owned Facebook and TikTok in gaining new users.

"In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce," the unsigned email said.

The email did not give a number but the Washington Post and New York Times reported that about half of Twitter's 7,500 employees — mostly based in San Francisco — will be let go.


Saying goodbye

Some workers had already begun to learn their fates and took to Twitter to say goodbye to colleagues.

"Spoiler Alert: I do not have a job," tweeted ex-employee Blake Herzinger as others reported losing access to company servers and email accounts.

Twitter employees have been bracing for this kind of bad news since Musk completed his acquisition late last week and quickly set about dissolving its board and firing its chief executive and top managers.

Late on Thursday, a group of five Twitter employees who had already been fired filed a class action complaint against the company on the grounds that they had not been given the required 60-day notice period as required by law.

The lawsuit references the US Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification  Act, which provides workers a right to advance notice in cases of mass layoffs or plant closings.

The speed of the changes is having repercussions. Twitter has already been sued for not giving proper notice of the plan to eliminate about 3,700 jobs. 

Some advertisers are also wary of Musk’s plans to reexamine Twitter’s content moderation policy. Volkswagen, Europe’s largest carmaker, joined Pfizer and General Mills in temporarily pausing advertising on the platform.

“Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists,” Musk said in a tweet. “Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.”


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