Elon Musk began laying off hundreds of Twitter employees on Friday, four days before the midterm elections, including key members of teams working on the US election and moderating content on Twitter’s social media platform. high level.
Tweets flooded the platform on Friday, many with the hashtags #LoveWhereYouWork and #OneTeam, as employees told others they had been laid off. Many of the assignees had previously held positions such as public policy, trust and security, communications, engineering, marketing and human resources.
Half of Twitter’s public policy team has been cut, including members of a team that reviews politicians’ accounts, according to a person close to the company who asked not to be identified. That work is now consolidated into a single team rolling out a subscription service, slated to launch on April 9. 7.
Since buying Twitter last week, the tech billionaire has insisted that the company’s policy of content moderation and disinformation remain in place and has tried to please advertisers who were shy about its promises to release more free content for restoring his news feed.
However, Friday’s layoffs appear to be fueling fears among users and advertisers that Twitter is losing its ability to keep track of who and what is being viewed on its platform. And the general cuts come just when the company’s moderation systems need to be tested during half-time.
In a call for the press, a coalition of activist and civil rights groups called #StopToxicTwitter called for a global trade pause in light of Friday’s mass layoffs. Some big companies like General Mills, Pfizer and GM said they were suspending advertising on the platform.
“In light of today’s massive layoffs, it’s clear that Musk’s actions betray his words,” Jessica González, co-CEO of media advocacy group Free Press, said on the conference call. He was part of a group of seven political and civil rights groups that spoke with Musk earlier this week, where he assured them that he would not reseat banned accounts for several weeks and that he would restrict access to the tools of the Twitter electoral integrity officials recovered who had previously been frozen.
Musk himself tweeted that the platform had already seen a “huge drop” in ad revenue and combatively rejected civic groups that lobbied Twitter, saying they are “trying to destroy free speech in America.”
Musk has not yet publicly acknowledged the mass layoffs Friday in tweets. Twitter spokespersons did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One of those fired was Michele Austin, the now former president of the US and Canadian electoral and public policy company.
Austin tweeted that she was tasked with leading the United States in 2022. medium term policy on the platform. “I was responsible for social impact work in both countries,” she tweeted in a thread on Friday.
Another source close to Twitter said the layoffs weren’t evenly spread across the company. While members of Trust and Safety’s global operations have been fired, those teams continue to operate with fewer staff. The source also said the company still has people working directly on electoral security and disinformation, and plans are still underway for the 2022 midterm, led by Yoel Roth, the company’s head of security and integrity. Many former employees were denied access to corporate logins for online Twitter accounts Thursday night without previously being notified of their contracts being terminated, according to a former employee who spoke to POLITICO on condition of anonymity. Others posted failed attempts to access their Twitter email before official layoffs were announced.
“I woke up this morning and found that I couldn’t log into my work computer, work email, and Slack account,” the person said. “My manager wrote to me to ask if I still had access, so at the time even the managers didn’t know who was still in their teams.”
To replace some of the 4,000 reported people who have lost their jobs so far, the new Twitter boss “brought in some Tesla engineers and some investors and friends,” the person added, adding that the new leadership has fired in the interest of ‘reduction. costs’.
Disgruntled employees in the United States filed a collective lawsuit against Twitter, claiming they did not receive adequate notice of their dismissal. States like California and New York have laws requiring companies to give employees long notices before they are fired. In Europe, similarly strict labor laws in countries like Belgium, Britain and France could make it difficult — and costly — for Musk to fire local employees.
“Getting rid of public policy makers pretending to practice ‘true freedom of speech’ is the [dumbest] decision ever,” wrote Audrey Herblin-Stoop, former chief lobbyist for Twitter in France, on the platform.
The announcements follow an internal email that circulated on Thursday telling thousands of company employees around the world that they would be notified by email on November 4 whether or not they would stay with the company. . According to Bloomberg, there has been speculation that up to half of Twitter’s global workforce could lose their jobs. Ahead of Friday’s purge, Musk’s new leadership had given employees “zero communications” about jobs that would be at stake, according to another Twitter employee who was unemployed Friday morning. That person also spoke on condition of anonymity.
In the days after announcing his $44 billion acquisition, Musk urged teams to “find ways to cut business costs by up to $3 million a day or provide any urgent new features,” including Twitter’s new verified payment ticks, according to the former Twitter manager.
“Apart from these urgent requests, we have not received any other communications regarding corporate strategy or layoffs,” the person said.
Speaking to The Irish Times in Dublin, Twitter’s European headquarters, employees described the situation as “carnage” where the layoffs are “random and indiscriminate”. A UK-based former Twitter executive told POLITICO people were exchanging frantic messages on WhatsApp with colleagues to gather the latest information on who had been made redundant – and who was still at the company.
“There’s a lot of Doom scrolling through Twitter to see what’s going on,” the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told POLITICO.
Joan Deitchman, senior engineer in Twitter’s machine learning, ethics, transparency and accountability team, wrote on the platform that the unit – which was tasked with researching how to improve transparency around algorithms automated – had been completely disbanded. “It’s all gone,” she said.
Other tech companies had already started hiring former Twitter employees. “If you work at Twitter and find yourself unemployed today, please contact us,” Juna González, Amazon Engineer, wrote on Twitter. “I’m sure we have the right role for you somewhere.”
The massive layoff represents the next step in Musk’s takeover of the social network, which remains a mainstay for him, as political leaders from President Joe Biden to French President Emmanuel Macron to the supreme leader of the Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, met with a global audience.
Within hours of acquiring Twitter in late October, Musk fired the company’s board, including its CEO Parag Agrawal, as well as Vijaya Gadde, who led the company’s legal, policy and trust teams. social media company. In a bid to boost revenue for the social media network, which has struggled to turn a profit in the past, Musk also plans to charge people $8 a month to maintain their accounts through the now-iconic ‘blue tick’. . company can be verified. The massive layoffs announced on Friday are also part of this effort to make the company more profitable.
The richest man in the world has become a lightning rod in the fight for freedom of expression and content moderation. He tried to reassure advertisers that he wouldn’t let the platform turn into “free hell”. However, some major advertisers have called for a pause in business with the platform, particularly after Musk shared a false story about an attack on Nancy Pelosis’ husband.
“He specifically told us that he didn’t want Twitter to be a hate amplifier,” said Yael Eisenstat, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Technology and Society, which has joined other groups in civil society in a conversation with Musk this week. . “We will continue to watch to make sure those actions actually happen.”