upper waypoint

Twitter Begins Mass Layoffs 1 Week After Musk Takeover

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

A pedestrian walks by Twitter headquarters on Oct. 28, 2022, in San Francisco.  (Liu Guanguan/China News Service via Getty Images)

Updated 5:57 p.m. Friday

Twitter began widespread layoffs Friday as new owner Elon Musk overhauls the social platform.

The company had told employees by email that they would find out by 9 a.m. PDT whether they had been laid off. About half of the company’s staff of 7,500 was let go, which Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, confirmed in a tweet.

Musk tweeted late Friday that there was no choice but to cut the jobs "when the company is losing over $4M/day." He did not provide details on the daily losses at the company and said employees who lost their jobs were offered three months' pay as severance.

Musk meanwhile tweeted that “Twitter’s strong commitment to content moderation remains absolutely unchanged.”

Sponsored

But a Twitter employee who spoke with The Associated Press Friday said it will be a lot harder to get that work done starting next week after losing so many colleagues.

“This will impact our ability to provide support for elections, definitely,” said the employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of concerns for job security.

The employee said there’s no “concrete sense of direction” except for what Musk says publicly on Twitter.

Some employees of the San Francisco-based company tweeted earlier that they had already lost access to their work accounts. They and others tweeted messages of support using the hashtag #OneTeam. The email to staff said job reductions were “necessary to ensure the company’s success moving forward.”

As of Friday, Musk and Twitter had given no public notice of the coming layoffs, according to a spokesperson for California’s Employment Development Department. That’s even though the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires employers with at least 100 workers to disclose layoffs involving 500 or more employees with 60 days' notice, regardless of whether a company is publicly traded or privately held.

A class-action lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of four employees working in the company's San Francisco and Cambridge, Massachusetts, offices: 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.

The suit says another Musk-owned company, the electric carmaker Tesla, engaged in similar violations earlier this year when Musk made mass layoffs there without advance written notice.

The layoffs affected Twitter's offices around the world. In the United Kingdom, Twitter would also be required by law to give employees notice, said Emma Bartlett, a partner specializing in employment and partnership law at CM Murray LLP.

In the case of mass firings, failure to notify the government could “have criminal penalties associated with it,’’ Bartlett said, adding that whether criminal sanctions are ever applied is another question.

The speed of the layoffs could also open Musk and Twitter up to discrimination claims if it turns out, for instance, that they disproportionally affected women, people of color or older workers.

New York employment lawyer Peter Rahbar, a frequent commentator on employment law, said most employers “take great care in doing layoffs of this magnitude” to make sure they are justified and don't unfairly discriminate or bring unwanted attention to the company.

“For some reason, he wants to lay off half the company without doing any due diligence on what these people do or who they are and without any regards to the law,” Rahbar said.

Twitter’s employees have been expecting layoffs since Musk took the helm of the company. Already, he fired top executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal, on his first day as Twitter’s owner.

Musk also removed the company’s board of directors and installed himself as the sole board member. On Thursday night, many Twitter employees took to the platform to express support for each other — often simply tweeting blue heart emojis to signify Twitter’s blue bird logo — and salute emojis in replies to each other.

A Twitter manager said many employees found out they had been laid off when they could no longer log into the company’s systems. The manager said the way the layoffs were conducted showed a “lack of care and thoughtfulness.” The manager, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity out of concerns for job security, said managers were not given any notice about who would be getting laid off.

“For me as a manager, it’s been excruciating because I had to find out about what my team was going to look like through tweets and through texting and calling people,” the employee said. “That’s a really hard way to care for your people. And managers at Twitter care a lot about their people.”

Several employees who tweeted about losing their jobs said Twitter also eliminated their entire teams, including one focused on human rights and global conflicts, another that checked Twitter’s algorithms for bias in how tweets get amplified, and one comprising engineers devoted to making the social platform more accessible for people with disabilities.

Eddie Perez, a Twitter civic integrity team manager who quit in September, said he fears that the layoffs coming so close to the midterms could allow disinformation to “spread like wildfire” during the post-election vote-counting period in particular.

“I have a hard time believing that it doesn’t have a material impact on their ability to manage the amount of disinformation out there,” he said, adding that there simply may not be enough employees to beat it back.

Perez, a board member at the nonpartisan election integrity nonprofit OSET (Open Source Election Technology) Institute, said the post-election period is particularly perilous because “some candidates may not concede and some may allege election irregularities, and that is likely to generate a new cycle of falsehoods.”

In a tweet Friday while employees were learning whether they’d lost their jobs, Musk blamed activists for what he described as a “massive drop in revenue” since he took over Twitter late last week.

Big companies including General Motors, General Mills and Audi all have paused ads on Twitter due to questions about how it will operate under Musk. Volkswagen Group said Friday it is recommending that its brands, which include Škoda, Seat, Cupra, Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley, Porsche and Ducati, pause paid activities until Twitter issues revised brand safety guidelines.

In his tweet blaming activists for a drop in revenue, Musk said: “nothing has changed with content moderation.”

A coalition of civil rights groups who escalated their calls Friday for brands to pause advertising buys on the platform said the sweeping layoffs will jeopardize content moderation standards. The layoffs are particularly dangerous ahead of the elections, the groups warned, and for transgender users and other groups facing violence inspired by hate speech that proliferates online.

Leaders with the organizations Free Press and Color of Change said they spoke with Musk on Tuesday, and he promised to retain and enforce election integrity measures already in place. But the mass layoffs suggest otherwise, according to Jessica González, co-CEO of Free Press.

González pushed back on Musk’s assertion that content moderation rules — an operation she said was already “dangerously under-resourced” — had not changed since his takeover.

“When you lay off reportedly 50% of your staff — including teams who are in charge of actually tracking, monitoring and enforcing content moderation and rules — that necessarily means that content moderation has changed,” González said. “He cannot enforce content moderation if he doesn’t have the staff to do so. AI alone cannot solve this problem.”

The plans to lay off roughly half of Twitter's workforce were also criticized by local politicians, including state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who called Musk's moves "deeply concerning."

Wiener said, "While companies periodically engage in layoffs to acknowledge economic realities, firing a full half of employees goes well beyond that. Combined with Musk's signals that he will allow toxic accounts back onto the platform — thus leading to targeting and incitement of violence against LGBTQ people, Jews, people or color, and others — I see trouble ahead for Twitter, its users, and our democracy."

State Assemblymember Matt Haney, D-San Francisco, said, "Slashing jobs by the thousands without notice at Twitter, a hostile 'nightmare' work environment, creating instability on a site that people use to access critical information just days before an election—don't defend or justify it, it's wrong, mean & dangerous."

Haney said, "We don't live in a country or state where private companies can do whatever they want at a whim. Laws do apply within the workplace."

Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg said there is “little Musk can say to appease advertisers when he’s keeping the company in a constant state of uncertainty and turmoil, and appears indifferent to Twitter employees and the law.”

“Musk needs advertisers more than they need him,” she said. “Pulling ads from Twitter is a quick and painless decision for most brands.”

Sponsored

AP business writers Mae Anderson, Alexandra Olson and Ken Sweet in New York, James Pollard in Columbia, S.C., Frank Bajak in Boston and Danica Kirka in London contributed. This story includes additional reporting from Bay City News.

lower waypoint
next waypoint
Paleontologists Discover 240-Million-Year-Old 'Dragon' Fossil in Full'Everybody Is Just Scrambling': Nationwide Cyber Attack Delays Bay Area Pharmacy OrdersMacy's to Close Flagship San Francisco Union Square StoreCrowds (and Dragons) Pack Chinatown for San Francisco's Chinese New Year ParadePerformance Reviews are Underperforming. What Should Replace Them?Proposition A: Why SF Is Asking Voters For a $300 Million Affordable Housing BondA Growing ‘Right to Repair’ Culture in CaliforniaCharles Duhigg's “Supercommunicators” Breaks Down How to Talk Better and Forge ConnectionsHow to Correct a Mistake on Your Ballot for the 2024 California Primary ElectionTommy Orange’s ‘Wandering Stars’ Examines the Legacy and Consequences of Cultural Erasure