Twitter chaos deepens as 1,200 more employees quit

New owner Elon Musk sends flurry of emails to learn about company's software and holds talks with engineers in apparent bid to soften the blow of departures

A sign mocking new Twitter owner Elon Musk has been posted outside the social media company's corporate office in New York. EPA
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Twitter is facing more uncertainty after about 1,200 more employees quit amid the sweeping changes introduced by new owner Elon Musk, The New York Times reported on Friday, quoting company emails.

The departure of the full-time employees happened on Thursday, leaving some core teams without any staff, and more layoffs or sackings could happen because Mr Musk, who bought the social media platform for $44 billion, is considering shutting down one of the company's main data centres in the US, the Times reported.

That would whittle down Twitter's workforce to about a third of the 7,500 employee count at the end of October, and after Mr Musk fired half of them this month.

With Twitter's staff severely depleted, Mr Musk sent several emails on Friday in an apparent bid to restore some continuity of operations, starting with a "plea", as described by the Times.

“Anyone who actually writes software, please report to the 10th floor at 2pm today,” Mr Musk wrote in a short message.

In other emails sent soon afterwards, he said he wanted to learn about Twitter's "tech stack", or the company's software and related systems, then asked some staff to fly to the company's San Francisco headquarters for in-person meetings.

It is unclear whether these emails were intended to soften the blow resulting from the latest mass exit of employees.

Twitter was thrown into chaos almost immediately after Mr Musk, who is known for his erratic behaviour and controversial views, took over on October 27. Throughout the months-long saga that led to his purchase of the company, he did not put forward any clear strategy on how to run it, alienating employees as a result.

His first email to staff — the first of several harsh messages, including threatening dissenters and suggesting he would fire anyone who was not a "hardcore" worker — banned remote working.

Those who quit were mocked by Mr Musk, who called them "softcore" and "ex-hardcore" employees.

Shortly after taking over, he fired senior executives and began introducing rigid changes to the company's operating structure, saying it needed to boost its revenue streams because it was losing $4 million a day.

Twitter's revenue slipped 1 per cent annually to about $1.18 billion in the second quarter. It swung to 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 $65.6 million a year ago.

“It’s a pretty dark picture. The amount of tribal knowledge lost is simply staggering, possibly unprecedented," said Glenn Hope, an engineer who worked at Facebook and Instagram.

Mr Musk began charging $7.99 to those who wanted to use Twitter Blue, which certifies verified accounts.

However, a new version will be launched on November 29 following confusion over its changes and after a wave of fake accounts parodied famous people, big companies and Mr Musk himself.

The chaos prompted users, including celebrities, to quit the platform and seek alternatives, including Cohost, Counter Social, Mastodon, Tribel Social and uSync.

Critics are also worried that Mr Musk's freedom of speech mantra will cause Twitter to be filled with hate speech and disinformation, although he has said the company is looking into new ways of moderating content on the platform.

The next WeChat? What could Twitter become under Elon Musk?

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Mr Musk also released a Twitter poll that asked his 116.7 million followers whether the company should reinstate former US president Donald Trump, who was banned from the platform after inciting the January 6, 2021, attack on the US capitol.

Separately, the Tesla chief executive is embroiled in a US investigation over his $56 billion pay package at the electric car maker, providing evidence this week to rebut claims that it was based on easy performance targets and approved by a compliant board of directors.

Updated: November 19, 2022, 7:58 AM