Twitter lays off staff as Musk blames activists for ‘massive’ drop in ad revenue
- Musk wants to lay off around half of Twitter’s workforce
- Employees file class action lawsuit against Twitter
- Staff lose access to systems
- Volkswagen pulls ads
Nov 4 (Reuters) – Twitter Inc began a major round of layoffs on Friday, notifying employees of their job status by email after blocking entrances to offices and cutting off workers’ 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 on Friday that the service was experiencing a “massive drop in revenue” as advertisers pulled spending.
Musk blamed the losses on a coalition of civil rights groups that have pressured Twitter’s top advertisers to take action if he did not protect content moderation. The groups said on Friday that they are escalating pressure, demanding that brands pull Twitter ads globally.
“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 employees Thursday evening, announcing the cuts coming Friday , which was seen by Reuters.
The company was tight-lipped about the depth of the cuts, although internal plans reviewed by Reuters this week indicated that Musk was looking to cut about 3,700 Twitter employees, or about half of its workforce.
Employees working in engineering, communications, product, content curation and machine learning ethics were among those affected by the layoffs, according to tweets from Twitter employees.
Shannon Raj Singh, a lawyer who was Twitter’s acting head of human rights, tweeted on Friday that the entire human rights team at the company had been cut.
Musk has promised to restore free speech while preventing Twitter from descending into a “hellscape.” However, his assurances have failed to reassure major advertisers, who have expressed concerns about his takeover for months.
Volkswagen AG ( VOWG_p.DE ) recommended its brands stop paid advertising on Twitter until further notice in the wake of Musk’s takeover, it said on Friday. Their comments echoed similar comments from other companies, including General Motors Co ( GM.N ) and General Mills Inc ( GIS.N ).
Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, which is 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 was doing “everything we could” to appease the groups. “Extremely messed up! They (civil rights groups) are trying to destroy free speech in America.”
Speaking at an investor conference in New York on Friday, Musk called the activist push “an attack on the First Amendment.”
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
ACCESS TO SYSTEMS CUT
Dozens of employees tweeted that they lost access to work email and Slack channels before receiving an official notification, which they took as a sign that they had been laid off.
They tweeted blue hearts and greeting emojis expressing support for each other, using the hashtags #OneTeam and #LoveWhereYouWorked, a retro version of a slogan employees had used for years to celebrate the company’s work culture.
Twitter’s curation team, responsible for “highlighting and contextualizing the best events and stories unfolding on Twitter,” had been axed, employees at the platform said. The company’s communications team in India has also been laid off, according to a Twitter executive in Asia.
A team focused on researching how Twitter used algorithms, an issue that was a priority for Musk, was also eliminated, according to a tweet from a former senior Twitter executive.
Senior executives including Vice President of Engineering Arnaud Weber also said goodbye 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, the premium subscription service that Musk is bolstering, were also let go. An employee with the handle “SillyRobin” who had indicated they were being laid off quoted Musk’s previous tweet as saying Twitter Blue would include “paywall bypass” for certain publishers.
“Just to be clear, he fired the team that was working on this,” the employee said.
Twitter’s head of security and integrity, Yoel Roth, appeared to have kept his job, as did vice president of product Keith Coleman, who launched a tool called Birdwatch for users to write notes on tweets they identify as misleading.
Last week, Musk endorsed Roth, citing his “high integrity” after Roth was called out over tweets critical of former US President Donald Trump years earlier. Musk has also tweeted that he likes Birdwatch.
Roth and Coleman did not respond to requests for comment.
Twitter said in its email to employees that offices will be temporarily closed and brand access suspended to “help ensure the security of each employee as well as Twitter systems and customer data.”
Offices in London and Dublin appeared deserted on Friday, with no staff in sight. At the London office, all evidence that Twitter had once 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 orders to stay away.
A class-action lawsuit was filed Thursday against Twitter by its employees, who claimed the company carried out mass layoffs without giving the required 60-day advance notice, in violation of federal and California law.
The lawsuit also asked the federal court in San Francisco to issue an order restricting Twitter from soliciting laid-off employees to sign documents without informing them of the pendency of the case.
Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas, Katie Paul in Palo Alto, Calif., and Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif. Additional reporting by Fanny Potkin, Rusharti Mukherjee, Aditya Kalra, Martin Coulter, Hyunjoo Jin, Supantha Mukherjee and Arriana McLymore Writing by Matt Scuffham Editing by Kenneth Li, Jason Neely and Matthew Lewis
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