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

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

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

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

The move caps a week of chaos and uncertainty about the company’s future under new owner Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, who tweeted on Friday that the service had experienced a “huge drop in revenue” since the advertiser retreat.

Musk blamed the losses on a coalition of civil rights groups that had been pressuring Twitter’s top advertisers to take action if it did not protect content moderation — a heightened concern ahead of key congressional elections on Tuesday.

After the layoffs, the groups said they were increasing their pressure and demanding that brands pull their Twitter ads worldwide.

“Unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M per day,” Musk tweeted of the layoffs, adding that everyone affected was offered three months of severance pay.

The company was silent on the depth of the cuts until late in the day, when safety and integrity chief Yoel Roth tweeted confirmation of internal plans, seen by Reuters earlier in the week, that are projected to affect around 3,700 people, or 50%. of the team.

Among those let go were 784 employees from the company’s headquarters in San Francisco and 199 in San Jose and Los Angeles, according to filings with the California employment authority.

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

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

Musk promised to restore free speech while preventing Twitter from descending into a “hellscape”.

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

“And now what we’re all worried about: Elon Musk goes out and buys a suit that sends – it spews lies all over the world… There are no editors in America anymore. There are no editors. understand what it means? “

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

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

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

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Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

ACCESS TO SHORT SYSTEMS

The email informing staff of layoffs was the first communication Twitter workers received from the company’s leadership after Musk took over last week. It was signed by “Twitter,” without naming Musk or any other executives.

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

They shared blue hearts and salute emojis showing support for each other, using the hashtags #OneTeam and #LoveWhereYouWorked, a past-tense version of a slogan that employees have 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 emerging on Twitter,” employees wrote, has been terminated.

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

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

Senior executives including VP of engineering Arnaud Weber shared their congratulations 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 being bolstered by Musk, were also let go. An employee with the handle “SillyRobin” who indicated they were out of business, quote-tweeted Musk’s previous tweet saying that Twitter Blue would include a “paywall bypass” for certain publishers.

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

DOORS LOCKED

Twitter said in an email to staff that offices would be temporarily closed and badge access suspended “to help ensure the safety of all employees as well as Twitter systems and customer data.”

The London and Dublin offices appeared deserted on Friday, with no employees to be seen. At the London office, any evidence that Twitter once occupied the building was destroyed.

A receptionist at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters said a few people had trickled in and were working on the floors above despite the stay-away notice.

Several employees filed a class action Thursday against Twitter, which they argued the company was making mass releases without providing the required 60-day advance notice, in violation of federal and California law.

The lawsuit asked a San Francisco federal court to issue an order to restrict Twitter from asking employees out of office to sign documents without informing them of the pendency of the case.

Reporting by 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; Editing by Kenneth Li, Jason Neely, Matthew Lewis and William Mallard

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Dave’s prayer

Thomson Reuters

San Francisco Bay Bay-based high-tech reporter 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 high-tech industry.

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