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

  • Half of Twitter’s workforce is Musk
  • Employees File Class Action Against Twitter
  • Employees lose access to systems
  • Major advertisers pull ads

Nov 4 (Reuters) – Twitter Inc laid off half its workforce on Friday, but said the cuts to a team responsible for curbing the spread of misinformation were small as advertisers pulled back spending amid concerns about content control.

Tweets from the social media company’s employees include teams responsible for communications, content moderation, human rights and machine learning ethics, as well as some product and engineering teams.

The move caps a week of confusion and uncertainty over the company’s future under new owner Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, who tweeted on Friday that the service was experiencing a “massive drop in revenue” from advertiser backlash.

Musk blamed the losses on a coalition of civil rights groups that have been pressing for action if Twitter’s top advertisers don’t protect content ratings — raising concerns ahead of potentially key congressional elections on Tuesday.

After the layoffs, the groups said they were stepping up their pressure, demanding that brands pull their Twitter ads globally.

“Unfortunately the company had no choice when it was losing $4M a day,” Musk tweeted about the layoffs, adding that all those affected would receive three months of severance pay.

The company was tight-lipped about the depth of the cuts until Yoel Roth, head of safety and integrity, tweeted earlier in the week, via Reuters, that the layoffs would affect about 3,700 people, or 50%, and confirmed internal plans. of employees.

The departures include 784 employees from the company’s San Francisco headquarters and 199 employees in San Jose and Los Angeles, according to filings with the California Employment Authority.

Roth said he has cut 15% of his team responsible for preventing the spread of misinformation and other harmful content, and that the company’s “core moderation capabilities” are in place.

Musk approved the defense executive last week after Roth was called out on tweets critical of former President Donald Trump several years ago.

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

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

“What we’re all worried about right now: Elon Musk goes out and buys an outfit that sends — it spews lies all over the world… America has no editors anymore. No editors. How do we expect kids to understand what’s at stake?”

Major advertisers have expressed fears about Musk’s takeover for months.

Brands including General Motors Company (GM.N) and General Mills Inc (GIS.N) Twitter has said it has suspended advertising while awaiting information about the site’s new direction.

Musk tweeted that his team had made no changes to the content rating and had done “everything we could” to appease the teams. Speaking at an investor conference in New York on Friday, Musk called the activist pressure an “attack on the First Amendment.”

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Cut access to settings

The email notifying employees of the layoffs is the first communication Twitter workers have received from the company’s leadership since Musk took over last week. It was signed only by “Twitter” without naming Musk or any other executives.

Dozens of employees tweeted that they had lost access to work email and Slack channels overnight before receiving the official layoff notice Friday morning, prompting lamentations from current and former employees on the platform they built.

They shared blue hearts and salute emojis expressing their support for each other

Twitter’s curation team, responsible for “highlighting and contextualizing the best events and stories emerging on Twitter,” was fired, the staff wrote.

Attorney Shannon Raj Singh, Twitter’s former head of human rights, tweeted that the company’s entire human rights team had been fired.

Another group that focused on research into how Twitter used machine learning and algorithms, an issue that was Musk’s priority, was also eliminated, according to a tweet from a former senior Twitter manager.

Senior executives, including vice president of engineering Arnaud Weber, said goodbye on Twitter on Friday: “Twitter has untapped potential, but I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

Employees of Twitter Blue, the premium subscription service that Musk is promoting, were also let go. An employee with the handle “SillyRobin” retweeted an earlier Musk tweet that Twitter Blue would have a “paywall bypass” for certain publishers, citing their layoffs.

“To be clear, he fired the team working on this,” the employee said.

The doors are locked

Twitter said in an email that offices would be temporarily closed and badge access would be suspended “to help ensure the security of every employee and Twitter systems and customer data.”

Offices in London and Dublin were deserted on Friday, with no employees. At the London office, evidence that Twitter once occupied the building was destroyed.

A receptionist at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters was told to stay away, but some cheated and worked on the floors above.

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

The suit asked a San Francisco federal court to issue an injunction barring Twitter from firing employees who sign documents without notifying them of the pending lawsuit.

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

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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