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Elon Musk begins mass layoffs at Twitter

Nov. 4, 2022 Updated Fri., Nov. 4, 2022 at 9:27 p.m.

By Faiz Siddiqui Washington Post

SAN FRANCISCO – Elon Musk is beginning mass layoffs at Twitter, sharply reducing the company’s workforce of 7,500 and kicking off his wholesale overhaul of the company.

An email went out to the company’s employees late Thursday notifying employees of plans to cut jobs, informing them that by 9 a.m. Friday, workers would receive an email with the subject line: “Your Role at Twitter.”

Those keeping their jobs would be notified on their company email. Those losing them would be told via their personal email.

“Team, In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday,” it said, according to multiple versions of the email obtained by the Washington Post. “We recognize that this will impact a number of individuals who have made valuable contributions to Twitter, but this action is unfortunately necessary to ensure the company’s success moving forward.”

Anyone who did not receive an email by 5 p.m. was told to follow up with the company. The offices would be closed Friday.

“We acknowledge this is an incredibly challenging experience to go through, whether or not you are impacted,” the email continued. “We are grateful for your contributions to Twitter and for your patience as we move through this process.”

It was the Musk team’s first official companywide communication with his staff.

In response to the email, dozens of Twitter employees posted a single blue heart to say goodbye to their colleagues. The identical hearts were posted one after the another in a long scroll on the company Slack.

Some workers had already begun losing their access to internal systems such as email and messaging service Slack, and those at the company Thursday described seeing the fallout in real time.

“Numbers dwindling down in the (Slack) channels last hour, people dropping like flies,” said one, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

Even workers who Musk had pulled into small teams to accelerate the development of new products over the past six days were let go, based on their access to internal systems being revoked. Another employee who spoke under the same condition said they knew of four people who had been pulled into such a team who lost their jobs on Thursday. The employee lost theirs, too.

On Twitter, employees were tweeting they were shut out of internal systems and assumed they were laid off.

Meanwhile, people who were not fired began receiving emails confirming they were still employed early Friday morning. The emails said Musk would address employees soon to talk about his plans for the company, according to emails viewed by the Post.

Those who were fired also started receiving emails. Some laid-off employees, speaking under condition of anonymity to discuss confidential matters, told the Post that they’d been informed they would remain technically employed by Twitter, with pay and benefits for about another two months but would no longer be working for the company during that time.

Twitter and Musk did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Musk is under pressure to recoup an investment in a site for which he has admitted to overpaying.

He assumed ownership of Twitter last week after striking a deal to buy the website for $44 billion this spring, before angling to exit the purchase and then reentering the agreement as a trial date in a court battle loomed.

Analysts have pegged Twitter’s actual value at closer to $25 billion. Musk has also taken out a more than $12 billion loan to fund the purchase of the site, according to financial filings, putting pressure on him to cut costs and remain solvent in the face of roughly $1 billion per year interest payments on that debt.

Musk is CEO of the new company. Deputies include his attorney, Alex Spiro; investor David Sacks; and Jared Birchall, who manages Musk’s family office.

The layoffs decision came after a weeklong assessment of Twitter, in which Musk and his deputies imposed a product freeze that stopped development on Twitter’s internal projects, brought in Tesla engineers to review Twitter’s code, and left workers waiting in a vacuum of information on the company’s direction and leadership.

Musk was expected to proceed with plans to lay off about 50% of Twitter’s staff, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss confidential plans.

Musk began his tenure at Twitter a week earlier by ousting the previous executives, among them the CEO, chief financial officer and general counsel.

The layoffs starting Friday were expected to affect the sales, trust and safety, marketing, product, engineering and legal teams – targeting the company across the board.

In addition to layoffs, Musk is also expected to make drastic cuts to others parts of the business – some so deep that employees are worried about the ability to keep Twitter up and running, according to internal documents viewed by the Post and people familiar with the plans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

In messages to engineers this week, managers asked workers to suggest ways to find at least $500 million in annual cuts across the company, according to the documents and people. The cuts would include data centers and other software infrastructure needed to run the site, as well as targeting the contract workforce that performs content moderation for Twitter.

Earlier Thursday, amid reports of the impending cuts, Twitter employees prepared for what seemed like an inevitability, refreshing their internal tools such as messaging apps to learn the latest – as the possibility of losing their jobs loomed over them.

But information remained sparse until the email arrived later in the day.

At Twitter’s offices, employees said tearful goodbyes, exchanged contact information and tried to make their documentation easily accessible for the staff members who were to remain.

They wanted to ensure their colleagues could keep the site running in their absence.

Before Musk took over the site, Twitter had planned broad layoffs, which would have affected up to a quarter of the staff, according to people familiar with the plans. The Post reported previously the company’s board was planning to cut thousands of jobs as part of an effort to save $700 million in labor costs.

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