Twitter lays off staff as Musk blames activists for ‘massive’ drop in ad revenue

  • Musk axes about half of Twitter’s workforce
  • Employees file class action lawsuit against Twitter
  • Staff lose access to systems
  • Top advertisers pull ads

Nov 4 (Reuters) – Twitter Inc laid off half its workforce on Friday but said cuts were less significant in the team responsible for preventing the spread of misinformation, as advertisers cut spending amid concerns over content moderation.

Tweets from staff at the social media company said the teams responsible for communications, content curation, human rights and machine learning ethics were among those eviscerated, while like some product and engineering teams.

The move ends a week of chaos and uncertainty over the company’s future under new owner Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, who tweeted on Friday that the service was experiencing a “massive drop in income” from the retirement of advertisers.

Musk blamed the losses on a coalition of civil rights groups that pressed major Twitter advertisers to take action if he failed to protect content moderation – concerns grew ahead of the potential pivotal legislative elections in tuesday.

After the layoffs, the groups said they were stepping up their pressure on demanding brands to pull their Twitter ads around the world.

“Unfortunately, there is no other choice when the company is losing over $4 million a day,” Musk tweeted of the layoffs, adding that everyone involved has been offered three months of severance. severance pay.

The company remained silent on the extent of the cuts until later in the day, when chief security and integrity officer Yoel Roth tweeted confirmation of internal plans, seen by Reuters earlier in the day. week, predicting that the layoffs would affect around 3,700 people, or 50% of the workforce.

Among those laid off were 784 employees at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco and 199 in San Jose and Los Angeles, according to documents filed with the California Employment Authority.

Roth said the cuts affected about 15% of his team, which is tasked with preventing the spread of misinformation and other harmful content, and that the company’s “basic moderation capabilities” remained in place.

Musk endorsed the security chief last week, citing his “high integrity” after Roth was called out for tweets criticizing former President Donald Trump years earlier.

Musk has promised to restore free speech while preventing Twitter from descending into “hell”.

President Joe Biden said on Friday that Musk bought a social media platform on Twitter that spews lies around the world.

“And now what are we all worried about: Elon Musk goes out and buys an outfit that sends – spews lies all over the world… There are no more editors in America. There are no more publishers in America. ‘editors. How can we expect children to understand what’s at stake?”

Major advertisers have been expressing apprehension about Musk’s takeover for months.

Brands such as General Motors Co (GM.N) and General Mills Inc (GIS.N) said they have stopped advertising on Twitter pending information on the platform’s new direction.

Musk tweeted that his team made no changes to content moderation and did “everything we could” to appease the groups. Speaking at an investor conference in New York on Friday, Musk called the pressure from activists “an attack on the First Amendment.”

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.


The email notifying staff of the layoffs was the first communication Twitter employees received from company management after Musk took over last week. It was signed only by “Twitter”, without naming Musk or any other executive.

Dozens of employees tweeted that they had lost access to work email and Slack channels overnight before receiving formal layoff notices on Friday morning, prompting a wave of lamentations from current employees and elders on the platform they had built.

They shared blue hearts and salute emojis expressing support for each other, using the hashtags #OneTeam and #LoveWhereYouWorked, a past tense version of a slogan employees had used for years to celebrate the company’s work culture. company.

Twitter’s curation team, which was responsible for “highlighting and contextualizing the best events and stories happening on Twitter,” has been removed, the employees wrote.

Shannon Raj Singh, an attorney who was Twitter’s acting human rights officer, tweeted that the company’s entire human rights team had been fired.

Another team that focused on researching how Twitter used machine learning and algorithms, an issue that was a priority for Musk, was also eliminated, according to a tweet from a former top executive at Twitter.

Senior executives including Vice President of Engineering Arnaud Weber bid farewell on Twitter on Friday: “Twitter still has a lot of potential but I’m proud of what we’ve achieved.”

Employees of Twitter Blue, the premium subscription service that Musk is bolstering, have also been laid off. An employee with the handle “SillyRobin” who had indicated that he had been terminated, tweeted an earlier tweet from Musk saying that Twitter Blue would include “paywall bypass” for certain publishers.

“Just to be clear, he fired the team that was working on this,” the employee said.


Twitter said in its email to employees that offices would be temporarily closed and access to badges suspended “to help ensure the safety of every employee as well as Twitter’s systems and customer data.”

The London and Dublin offices appeared deserted on Friday, with no employees in sight. At the London office, any evidence that Twitter had once occupied the building was erased.

A receptionist at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters said a few people broke in and worked on upper floors despite the stay-away advisory.

A class action lawsuit was filed Thursday against Twitter by several employees, who argued that the company was carrying out mass layoffs without providing the required 60-day notice, in violation of federal and California laws.

The lawsuit asked the federal court in San Francisco to issue an order prohibiting Twitter from soliciting terminated employees to sign documents without informing them of the pending case.

Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas, Katie Paul in Palo Alto, Calif. and Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif.; Additional reporting by Fanny Potkin, Rusharti Mukherjee, Aditya Kalra, Martin Coulter, Hyunjoo Jin, Supantha Mukherjee and Arriana McLymore; Written by Matt Scuffham and Katie Paul; Editing by Kenneth Li, Jason Neely, Matthew Lewis and William Mallard

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Paresh Dave

Thomson Reuters

San Francisco Bay Area-based tech journalist covering Google and the rest of Alphabet Inc. Joined Reuters in 2017 after four years at the Los Angeles Times focusing on the local tech industry.

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