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 under way, only one week after his sensational takeover.
According to an internal memo seen by AFP, “approximately 50 per cent” 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 recognisable enterprises.
“Woke up to the news that my time working at Twitter has come to an end. I am heartbroken. I am in denial,” said Michele Austin, Twitter’s director of public policy for the US and Canada.
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 futures 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 acquisition, 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 actions would help Twitter combat the possibility of losing advertisers, which are the company’s primary source of income, since many of the major businesses in the world postpone their ad purchases after learning of Musk’s well-known contempt for content controls.
The volatile businessman lamented a “huge loss in revenue” on Twitter on Friday, attributing it to “activist groups” who were pressing 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 organisations, 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 rumour that the husband of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been attacked.
“We are witnessing the real time destruction of one of the world’s most powerful communication systems. Elon Musk is an erratic billionaire who is dangerously unqualified to run this platform,” said Nicole Gill, Executive Director of Accountable Tech.
She was a member of a group of 60 rights organisations that demanded on Friday that advertising on the Musk-owned platform be boycotted.
“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 verify, it’s time for escalation,” said Angelo Carusone, President and CEO of Media Matters for America.
Since Musk finalised 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 US Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which grants employees the right to early notification in situations involving large layoffs or plant closures, is cited in the lawsuit.