On Friday, Twitter laid off half of its 7,500-person workforce as the company’s troubled big restructuring under new owner Elon Musk got underway, only one week after his blockbuster takeover.
According to an internal document seen by AFP, “approximately 50%” of the workforce was affected and would immediately lose access to business computers and email. Workers from all over the world who were let go used Twitter to express their anger or disbelief and bid farewell to one of Silicon Valley’s most recognizable enterprises.
“I awoke to the news that my employment with Twitter has ended. I’m devastated. Michele Austin, Twitter’s director of public policy for the US and Canada, declared, “I am in denial.
Prior to the layoffs, Twitter restricted access to all of its locations and asked staff to remain at home while they awaited word on their future with the firm. The cull is a part of Musk’s effort to obtain financing for the massive $44 billion acquisition, for which he sold $15.5 billion worth of Tesla shares and took on billions of dollars in debt. After his massive buyout, Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has been frantically looking for new revenue streams for Twitter, including the notion of charging users $8 per month for verified accounts. The moves 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 controls.
He mercurial tycoon on Friday complained on Twitter of a “massive drop in revenue” that he blamed on “activist groups” that were pressuring advertisers. “We did everything we could to appease the activists. Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America,” he added.
This seemed to be a reference to Musk’s previous meeting with civil rights organizations, where he heard worries that Twitter will unleash a wave of hate speech a week before the US midterm elections. Musk had promised that Twitter would not turn into a “free-for-all hellscape” in an effort to calm people down, but his assurance was swiftly contradicted by a tweet spreading a rumor that the husband of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been attacked.
“One of the most potent communication systems in the world is being destroyed in real-time. According to Nicole Gill, Executive Director of Accountable Tech, Elon Musk is an unstable millionaire who is dangerously unqualified to lead this platform. She was part of a coalition of 60 rights groups calling on Friday for a boycott by advertisers of the Musk-owned platform.
“Elon Musk has demonstrated that it’s not possible for him to keep the brand safeguards that have existed on Twitter in place. There’s no more time for trust but verification, it’s time for escalation,” said Angelo Carusone, President and CEO of Media Matters for America.
Since Musk finalized his acquisition late last week and immediately set about dissolving its board and removing its chief executive and key managers, Twitter employees have been preparing for this kind of unpleasant news. Five Twitter employees who had previously been let go filed a class action lawsuit against the business late on Thursday, alleging that they had not received the legally mandated 60-day notice period.
The lawsuit references the US Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which provides workers a right to advance notice in cases of mass layoffs or plant closings.