November 27, 2022

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Twitter is laying off staff as Musk blames activists for massive drop in ad revenue

Twitter is laying off staff as Musk blames activists for massive drop in ad revenue
  • Musk owns half of Twitter’s workforce
  • Employees file a class action lawsuit against Twitter
  • Employees lose access to systems
  • Top advertisers pull ads

(Reuters) – Twitter shed half its workforce on Friday but said cuts were smaller in the team responsible for preventing the spread of misinformation as advertisers pulled back spending amid concerns about content moderation.

Tweets from the social media company’s employees said teams responsible for communications, content regulation, human rights and machine learning ethics were among those that were corrupted, as were some of the production and engineering teams.

The move caps a week of chaos and uncertainty over the company’s future under new owner Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, who tweeted Friday that the service was seeing “a massive decline in revenue” from the advertiser’s decline.

Musk blamed the losses on a coalition of civil rights groups that had been pressing Twitter’s top advertisers to take action if it did not protect content moderation — concerns mounted ahead of a potential pivotal congressional elections on Tuesday.

After the layoffs, the groups said they are stepping up their pressure and asking brands to pull their Twitter ads globally.

“Unfortunately, there is no choice when the company loses more than $4 million a day,” Musk tweeted about the layoffs, adding that all those affected received three months of severance pay.

The company was silent about the depth of the cuts until late in the day, when Head of Safety and Integrity Yoel Roth tweeted confirming internal plans, seen by Reuters earlier in the week, predicting that the layoffs would affect about 3,700 people, or 50%. from Staff.

Those laid off include 784 employees from the company’s headquarters in San Francisco and 199 employees in San Jose and Los Angeles, according to California Employment Authority files.

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

Musk backed the safety chief last week, citing his “high integrity” after Roth was called in over tweets critical of former President Donald Trump years ago.

Musk promised to restore freedom of expression while preventing Twitter from descending into “hell.”

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

“And now what we’re all worried about: Elon Musk goes out and buys a costume that he sends – throwing lies all over the world…There are no liberators anymore in America. There are no liberators. How do we expect kids to be able to make sense of what’s at stake?”

Major advertisers have been apprehensive about a Musk takeover for several months.

Brands including General Motors (GM.N) And General Mills (GIS.N) They said they stopped advertising on Twitter while waiting for information about the platform’s new direction.

Musk tweeted that his team did not make any changes to tweaking the content and did “everything we could” to please the groups. Speaking at an investor conference in New York on Friday, Musk called the activist pressure an “attack on the First Amendment.”

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Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Cut off access to systems

The email notifying employees about the layoffs was the first contact Twitter workers received from the company’s leadership after Musk took over last week. It was signed only by “Twitter”, without naming Musk or any other executives.

Dozens of employees tweeted that they lost access to their work email and Slack channels overnight before receiving an official layoff notice Friday morning, leading to an outpouring of lament from current and former employees on the platform they built.

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

The staff wrote that Twitter’s curation team, which was responsible for “highlighting and contextualizing the best events and stories that unfold on Twitter,” has been left out.

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

Another team focused on researching how Twitter uses machine learning and algorithms, an issue that had been a priority for Musk, according to a tweet from a former Twitter senior manager, was also left out.

“Twitter still has a lot of unfulfilled potential, but I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” senior executives, including Vice President of Engineering Arno Weber, said their goodbyes on Twitter on Friday.

The staff of Twitter Blue, Musk’s premium subscription service, has also been abandoned. An employee named “SillyRobin” who indicated that he was being laid off, tweeted an earlier tweet from Musk saying that Twitter Blue would “bypass the paywall” for some publishers.

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“Just to clarify, he fired the team working on this,” the employee said.

The doors are locked

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

Offices in London and Dublin looked deserted on Friday, with no staff in sight. In the London office, any evidence of Twitter occupation of the building has been erased.

A receptionist at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters said a few people came in and were working on the upper floors despite being advised to stay away.

A class action lawsuit was filed Thursday against Twitter by several employees, who argued that the company was conducting mass layoffs without 60 days’ notice, in violation of federal and California law.

The lawsuit asked a federal court in San Francisco to order an order restricting Twitter from urging laid-off employees to sign documents without informing them of the case’s suspension.

Additional reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas, Katie Paul in Palo Alto, California, Parish Dave in Oakland, California; Additional reporting by Fanny Botkin, Rochari Mukherjee, Aditya Kalra, Martin Coulter, Hyungu Jin, Subanta Mukherjee and Ariana McLemore; Writing by Matt Skovham and Katie Ball; Editing by Kenneth Lee, Jason Neely, Matthew Lewis and William Mallard

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.