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

  • Musk looks to cut off half of Twitter’s workforce
  • Employees file a class action lawsuit against Twitter
  • Employees lose access to systems
  • Volkswagen pulls ads

(Reuters) – Twitter Inc on Friday launched a massive round of layoffs to alert employees to their job status by email after blocking office entrances and cutting workers’ access to internal systems overnight.

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

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. The groups said Friday they are escalating their pressure and are asking brands to pull their ads on Twitter globally.

Announcing the cuts that occurred on Friday, Twitter said in an email to employees Thursday night, which he saw: Reuters.

The company has been silent about the depth of the cuts, though internal plans reviewed by Reuters this week indicate that Musk was looking to cut Twitter’s staff by about 3,700, or about half the workforce.

Employees who worked in engineering, communications, product management, content management and machine learning ethics were among those affected by the layoffs, according to tweets from Twitter employees.

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

Musk promised to restore freedom of expression while preventing Twitter from descending into “hell.” However, his reassurances failed to placate major advertisers, who had expressed concerns about him seizing power for several months.

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Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) Its brands have recommended pausing paid advertising on Twitter until further notice in the wake of Musk’s acquisition, it said Friday. Her comments echo similar statements from other companies, including General Motors (GM.N) And General Mills (GIS.N).

Angelo Caruson, president of Media Matters for America, part of the Civil Rights Coalition, said he was aware of other major advertisers who were preparing to announce a pause in advertising on the platform.

Musk tweeted that his team did not make any changes to tweaking the content and did “everything we could” to please the groups. “So corrupt! They (civil rights groups) are trying to destroy freedom of expression in America.”

Speaking at an investor conference in New York on Friday, Musk called the activist pressure an “attack on the First Amendment.”

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cut off access to systems

Dozens of employees have tweeted that they lost access to their work email and Slack channels before receiving official notice, which they took as a sign of their layoffs.

They tweeted blue hearts and greeting 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.

Staff on the platform said that Twitter’s curation team, which is responsible for “highlighting and contextualizing the best events and stories that unfold on Twitter,” was left out. The company’s communications team in India has also been laid off, according to a Twitter executive in Asia.

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

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

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

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

Twitter’s head of Safety and Integrity, Yoel Roth, appears to have kept his job, as did Vice President of Product Keith Coleman, who launched a tool called Birdwatch for users to write notes on tweets they consider misleading.

Last week, Musk endorsed Roth, citing his “high integrity” after Ruth was called in over tweets criticizing former US President Donald Trump years ago. Musk also wrote on Twitter that he loves Birdwatch.

Roth and Coleman did not respond to requests for comment.

The doors are locked

Twitter said in its email to employees that offices will be temporarily closed and badge access suspended in order 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.

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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 its employees, who argued that the company was conducting mass layoffs without providing 60 days’ notice, in violation of federal and California law.

The lawsuit also asked a federal court in San Francisco to issue an order to restrict 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, and Parish Dave in Oakland, California. Additional reporting by Fanny Botkin, Rochari Mukherjee, Aditya Kalra, Martin Coulter, Hyungu Jin, Subanta Mukherjee and Ariana McLemore. Skovam Editing by Kenneth Lee, Jason Neely and Matthew Lewis

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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