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

Twitter lays off staff as Musk blames activists for 'massive' drop in ad revenue
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  • Musk lays off about half of Twitter’s workforce
  • Employees File Class Action Lawsuit Against Twitter
  • Staff lose access to systems
  • Major advertisers run ads

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

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

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

Musk blamed the losses on a coalition of civil rights groups that has been pressuring Twitter’s major advertisers to take action if it fails to protect content moderation, concerns that are heightened ahead of potential pivotal legislative elections on Tuesday.

After the firings, the groups said they were increasing their pressure and demanding that brands remove their ads from Twitter globally.

“Unfortunately, there is no other option when the company is losing over $4 million a day,” Musk tweeted about the layoffs, adding that everyone affected was offered three months of severance pay.

The company was silent on the depth of the cuts until the end of the day, when chief security and integrity officer Yoel Roth tweeted confirmation of internal plansseen by Reuters earlier this week, it projects the layoffs would affect some 3,700 people, or 50% of staff.

Those laid off included 784 employees at the company’s San Francisco headquarters and 199 in San Jose and Los Angeles, according to documents filed with the California labor authority.

Roth said the reductions 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” were maintained.

Musk endorsed the security executive last week, citing his “high integrity” after Roth came under fire for tweets criticizing former President Donald Trump years earlier.

Musk has promised restore freedom of expression while preventing Twitter from descending into a “hellscape”. But top advertisers they have expressed apprehension about his takeover for months.

Brands like General Motors Co. (GM.N) and General Mills Inc. (GIS.N) have said that they stopped advertising on Twitter while they waited for information on the new direction of the platform.

Musk tweeted that his team had made no changes to content moderation and had done “everything possible” 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 workers received from company leadership after Musk took office last week. It was signed by “Twitter” alone, 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 an official notice of termination on Friday morning, prompting a great deal of lamentation from current employees. and earlier on the platform they had built.

They shared blue hearts and greeting emojis expressing their support for one another, 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.

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

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

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

Top executives, including VP of engineering Arnaud Weber, said goodbye on Twitter on Friday: “Twitter still has a lot of potential unlocked, but I’m proud of what we’ve achieved.”

Employees at Twitter Blue, the premium subscription service that Musk is powering, were also laid off. An employee with the username “SillyRobin” who had indicated he had been fired tweeted an earlier tweet from Musk that said 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 credentials suspended “to help ensure the security of each employee, as well as Twitter’s systems and customer data.”

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

A receptionist at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco said some people had arrived and were working on the upper floors despite notices to stay away.

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

The suit asked the federal court in San Francisco to issue an order restricting Twitter from asking fired employees to sign documents without informing them of the pending case.

Reporting from Sheila Dang 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 Paul; Edited by Kenneth Li, Jason Neely, Matthew Lewis, and William Mallard

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Paresh Dave

Thomson Reuters

Technology reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area who covers Google and the rest of Alphabet Inc. He joined Reuters in 2017 after four years at the Los Angeles Times focused on the local tech industry.

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