Elon Musk apologises to Twitter employee he laid off

Haraldur Thorleifsson joined the platform in 2021 after it bought his digital brand agency

Elon Musk had a change of heart and said Haraldur Thorleifsson was considering remaining at Twitter. AP
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If you are not told you are fired, are you really fired? At Twitter, probably. And then, sometimes, you get your job back — if you want it.

Haraldur Thorleifsson, who until recently was employed by the social media company, logged in to his computer last Sunday to do some work — only to find himself locked out, along with 200 others.

He might have figured, as others before him have in the chaotic months of layoffs and firings since billionaire Elon Musk took over the company, that he was out of a job.

After nine days went by without him receiving an answer from Twitter as to whether he was still employed, Mr Thorleifsson decided to send a tweet to Mr Musk to see if he could get an answer.

“Maybe if enough people retweet, you’ll answer me here?” he wrote on Monday.

Eventually, he received his answer after a surreal Twitter exchange with Musk, who proceeded to ask him about his work, question his disability and his need for accommodation.

Mr Musk also tweeted that Mr Thorleifsson has a “prominent, active Twitter account and is wealthy” and the “reason he confronted me in public was to get a big payout”.

Mr Thorleifsson, who goes by “Halli” on Twitter, has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair.

While the exchange was going on, Mr Thorleifsson said he received an email that he was no longer employed.

However, Mr Musk had a change of heart late on Tuesday.

“I would like to apologise to Halli for my misunderstanding of his situation. It was based on things I was told that were untrue or, in some cases, true, but not meaningful,” he tweeted. “He is considering remaining at Twitter.”

Mr Thorleifsson did not immediately respond to a request for comment after Mr Musk’s tweet. In an earlier email, he called the experience “surreal”.

“You had every right to lay me off. But it would have been nice to let me know,” he said in a tweet to Mr Musk.

Mr Thorleifsson, who lives in Iceland, has about 151,000 Twitter followers while Mr Musk has more than 130 million. He joined Twitter in 2021 when the social media company, under previous management, acquired his start-up Ueno.

He was lauded in Icelandic media for choosing to receive the purchase price in wages rather than a lump sum payout as this way, he would pay higher taxes to Iceland in support of its social services and safety net.

Mr Thorleifsson’s said in a tweet his next move was to open a restaurant in central Reykjavik “very soon” that would be named after his mother.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Updated: March 08, 2023, 6:24 AM