Twitter fires half of its employees as chaotic start to Elon Musk era continues

Employees were restricted access to the company's offices, as well as their email and other work-related channels

Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, has lamented the disappointing performance of the company's advertising — a vital component of its business — pinning the 'massive drop in revenue' to 'activist groups' that were putting pressure on advertisers. AFP
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Twitter has cut its global workforce by half, marking an unflattering start to Elon Musk's time at its helm and triggering a lawsuit from some employees as uncertainty persists over how the world's wealthiest person will run the influential social media platform.

The layoffs, which are estimated to be around 3,700, had been expected since employees received a company-wide email notice early on Friday. Those who were terminated received an email with the message "Today is your last working day at the company”, Bloomberg reported.

Employees were restricted access to Twitter's offices, as well as their email and other work-related channels. Staff in the communications, content curation, engineering and machine-learning ethics divisions were among those largely impacted, according to tweets from Twitter staff.

Twitter has yet to release an official statement on the actual extent of the job cuts, but the firings, which took effect immediately, has affected "roughly 50 per cent" of its entire labour force, AFP reported, citing an internal document. The company has about 7,500 employees globally.

This has, however, been confirmed by Yoel Roth, Twitter's head of trust and safety, who tried to temper emotions by providing details on how much of his team was let go.

Conversely, Shannon Raj Singh, Twitter's former human rights counsel, who was among those fired, said in a tweet that her entire unit was sacked.

It remains unclear if the firings have large disparities between Twitter's geographical operations. The company's offices in the UAE are closed on Saturday and could not be reached for comment.

Twitter's actions prompted employees to file a class action suit, arguing that the mass layoffs violate federal and California laws, which require a 60-day notice period for any such move.

The firings — and uncertain future — continue a tumultuous year for Twitter, which had dragged on since April when Mr Musk made a surprise offer to buy the company at $54.20 a share, or $44 billion.

Mr Musk, who is also the chief executive of electric vehicle company Tesla, completed the acquisition following a whirlwind several months in which he went back-and-forth with executives.

Throughout the saga, both sides accused each other on a variety of issues, especially on the number of fake or spam accounts on the platform, which almost killed the deal.

Mr Musk, the world's wealthiest person who has about 112.3 million Twitter followers, tried to walk away from the deal in May after accusing the social media company of understating the number of bot and fake accounts on the platform.

Twitter repeatedly denied Mr Musk's accusations, saying its figures were accurate. This led to a series of lawsuits between the two parties.

Mr Musk said in April that he would ensure all users are human, a reference to another of his pledges to combat bots — automated programs designed to do certain tasks, such as interacting with users — on the platform.

Eventually, Mr Musk agreed to push through with the deal, under pressure from a US judge who gave both parties until October 28 to finalise negoatiations.

Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal, who replaced founder Jack Dorsey last November, finance chief Ned Segal and legal policy head Vijaya Gadde, have already been fired, receiving a severance package of about $122 million. They were let go before November 1, the day that would have made them eligible for stock options.

Amid the firings, Mr Musk also lamented the disappointing performance of Twitter's advertising — a vital component of its business — pinning the "massive drop in revenue" to "activist groups" that were putting pressure on advertisers, who are wary of Mr Musk's mercurial nature.

Major companies, including US carmaker General Motors, consumer food manufacturer General Mills and German automaker Audi, have decided to pause advertising on Twitter as they monitor how things would pan out with Mr Musk now on top.

Twitter, however, did acknowledge "advertising industry headwinds" in its second-quarter earnings results, which saw revenue slip 1 per cent annually to about $1.18bn. It reported a net loss of more than $270m in the three months to June — a period affected by uncertainty from Mr Musk's takeover bid — from a net income of almost $65.6m a year ago.

Updated: November 05, 2022, 9:34 AM
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