Twitter employees were asked not to enter the office on Friday, November 4, as the company began sweeping layoffs. According to internal communications seen by The New York Times and Reuters, employees expect half of the social media platform’s 7,500-strong workforce to be laid off.
The culling began about a week after Musk’s takeover was completed. Although the total number of employees laid off has yet to be confirmed, employees from the company’s offices around the world, including Canada, Ireland, India, and its head office in San Francisco have reported receiving messages signalling that their “role at Twitter has been identified as potentially impacted or at risk of redundancy.”
The layoffs follow Musk’s $44 billion purchase of the company on October 27. The largest leveraged buyout of a tech company in history, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO loaded about $13 billion in debt on Twitter for the acquisition. As a result, he is on the hook to pay roughly $1 billion in interest payments per year. Coincidentally, he has directed Twitter’s teams to find $1 billion in annual infrastructure cost savings, sources told Reuters.
More: Twitter Employees Get That Sinking Feeling As “Chief Twit” Elon Musk Arrives At HQ
According to Jesse Lehrich, the founder of Accountable Tech, a tech industry advocacy group, the layoffs amounted to little more than an arbitrary purge.
“There is nothing visionary or innovative about summarily firing” workers, Lehrich told the New York Times, adding that it was especially shortsighted to lay off workers with “specialized expertise and deep institutional knowledge” before Musk “even seems to have a basic grasp of the business.”
According to a lawsuit filed Thursday, it may also be illegal. The class action suit was filed by five current or former employees, including Emmanuel Cornet, a software engineer known for drawing satirical cartoons about Silicon Valley, and who was fired on Tuesday, per CNBC.
According to them, the company did not give workers the requisite 60-days notice before dismissing them. The suit argues that the mass layoffs are in violation of both federal and California state laws.
Besides Friday’s layoffs, Musk fired Twitter’s CEO, its top finance executive, and its top legal executive over the course the week. Its top advertising, marketing, and human resources executives, meanwhile, have announced that they have left the company.
Since he took over, hateful content on the platform has skyrocketed and use of the N-word has risen by nearly 500 percent, Reuters reported earlier this week. Kanye West’s account was also unfrozen, despite his recent antisemitic calls to violence, reports Bloomberg. A coalition of more than 40 advocacy organizations, including the NAACP and Free Press, sent an open letter to Twitter’s top advertisers this week asking them to pull their ads if Musk deprioritizes content moderation on the site.
Read: Volkswagen Pauses Twitter Ad Spending Following Elon Musk’s Takeover
BREAKING: @JGo4Justice announces escalation in #StopToxicTwitter: 60+ orgs call on Twitter’s advertisers (who make up 90% of the company’s revenue) to stop all ads on the platform. #StopHateForProfit pic.twitter.com/PU9sz9ZNl1
— Free Press (@freepress) November 4, 2022
And some advertisers have. General Motors and Volkswagen have both paused advertising on the platform, with Audi USA telling Carscoops that it has “paused paid support on Twitter and will continue to evaluate the situation.” By his own admission, Twitter has had “a massive drop in revenue” as advertisers have reconsidered their spending.
According to an email sent to employees who will not be laid off, Twitter’s offices will reopen on Monday and Musk is “looking forward to communicating with everyone about his vision for the company soon.”
Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists.
Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 4, 2022