Chaos at Twitter as Musk fires 50% of the global workforce in his first week

  • Musk has fired 50% of the 7,500-strong global workforce at Twitter.
  • Workers got locked out of their work accounts to realize their firing instead of receiving official notice.
  • Legal action has ensued and Musk is being charged in the US and UK by former employees.

On April 14th, historically, Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, moved to acquire one of the world’s leading microblogging social media platforms, Twitter.

Musk, who offered approximately 54.20 US dollars for a share, managed to buy out the company for USD 44 billion as the firm accepted the deal on April 25th.

In a drawn-out struggle to realize the transfer of power that spanned many months, the deal faced a temporary halt on 8th July owing to the billionaire’s dissatisfaction with the official figures on bot accounts.

Musk moved to terminate his end of the deal after a notification to the SEC claiming “material breach of multiple provisions of the Agreement”. But Twitter sued him back with an iron hand with the trial set to go on the floor in October.

However, in the last-moment impulsive shenanigan very typical of Musk, his attorneys confirmed their client’s promise to see the deal go through. And so on October 26th, in a video Elon Musk released himself, he is seen entering the Twitter headquarters carrying a sink.

The aftermath

Employees of the firm and people all over the world were waiting with bated breath to see “major changes” come to life after the transfer of power. And now they have been rightly disappointed.

Musk who always called himself a “free speech absolutist” has allowed several banned accounts on Twitter to come to life. This includes ex-US President Donald Trump whose account was suspended following the march on the Capitol last year.

His move has been celebrated by many on the right who believed Twitter’s former leadership was censoring them. Immediately after his takeover, trolls flooded the service with hate speech.

The $44 billion spent on Twitter has already left a sour taste in Musk’s mouth who proclaimed last month that he “overpaid” to acquire the social media platform. To the fear of employees at Twitter, this could only translate in one way, and it did, massive layoffs.

A 50% fall in the global workforce 

Almost as soon as he took charge, Musk fired some of the major players in the Twitter boardroom. Such names included Twitter ex-CEO Parag Agarwal with whom Musk had engaged in several “tweet battles” before.

Musk also fired Vijaya Gadde, the head of legal, policy, and trust; Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal, and Sean Edgett, who has been general counsel at Twitter since 2012. According to employees who wished to stay anonymous, Edgett had to be escorted out of the headquarters building after his firing.

After firing almost all of his board members, Musk established himself as the sole member of the Twitter boardroom.

Next to go were the regular employees on the social media platform. According to a tweet by Musk on Friday cuts were inevitable since the company is losing over $4 million every day.

Many employees who were fired spent the day tweeting their goodbyes whereas some others didn’t have the same luck. Some staff awoke on Friday to find they were locked out of their laptops and their access to the company Gmail and Slack had been revoked.

An employee tweeted to inform the world that she was logged out of her company-issued Macbook and it won’t turn on. In certain cases, an entire team of workers has found themselves unemployed due to being locked out of their work accounts. Needless to say, employees are angry to find out about their firing in such a manner without official notification.

Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity took to the platform to report that nearly 50% of the company’s global workforce of 7,500 was cut.

In an email sent to the laid-off employees on Thursday, it was addressed that to place Twitter on a healthy path and to continue supporting its progress, the global workforce was required to be downsized. The email acknowledges that such a move would impact several individuals who have made valuable contributions to Twitter, but this action is unfortunately necessary.

The bigger concerns

Yoel Roth also confirmed that around 15% of his team at the Trust and Safety wing had been laid off. This poses a serious threat to the advent of hate speech on the platform with the US midterm elections just 4 days away.

According to reports, Twitter’s “entire” curation team had been affected due to layoffs, thus potentially jeopardizing the company’s ability to counter misinformation at the time of elections.

Furthermore, the public relations team responsible for managing communications with journalists, politicians, and other organizations has also seen deep cuts. Other groups such as the company’s human rights team as well as the machine learning and algorithmic ethics teams are working with lesser staff.

Musk tweeted to address the growing discontent over the freedom of hate speech and the advent of misinformation on the platform, by stating the company’s commitment to content moderation remains unchanged.  He later claimed – without evidence – that hateful speech declined on the site in recent weeks.

To add to the worries for Twitter, due to the lax content moderation policy following the exit of key employees, advertising has been affected. For context, Twitter makes 90% of its revenue via advertising.

Organizers including the NAACP are pushing advertisers to consider pausing their spending, citing fears over content moderation and hate speech on the platform. Audi, General Motors, General Mills and Pfizer were among those who halted advertisements on Twitter.

Musk tweeted to blame activist groups for their role of pressuring advertisers and accused them of “trying to destroy free speech in America”.

Legal repercussions 

Such large-scale downsizing on behalf of Musk is not sitting well with jilted employees and so the firings have already prompted legal action in the US. Lawyers claim that Musk’s actions are against California employment law and are looking to drag him down to the court.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) statute requires employers to disclose layoffs involving 50 or more employees, regardless of whether a company is public or private. Barry White, a spokesperson for California’s employment development department, said on Thursday the agency had not received any such notifications from Twitter.

A class-action lawsuit was filed on Thursday in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of one employee who was laid off and three others who were locked out of their work accounts. It alleges that Twitter intends to lay off more employees and has violated the law by not providing the required notice.

In the UK, Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect, which represents tech workers, proclaimed that Twitter’s behavior is inexcusable.

He asks the government to intervene and make clear to Twitter’s new owners that workers won’t accept a digital P&O and that no one is above the law in the UK, including big tech barons.

In his defense, Musk claimed in a tweet that every employee laid off was offered three months of severance. But the New York Times reported that employees were given few details about severance.

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