(Headline USA) Twitter began widespread layoffs Friday as new owner Elon Musk overhauls the company, citing the pressure from left-wing activists to pressure advertisers into leaving as his reason for cutting the jobs of many left-wing workers.
In a tweet Friday, Musk blamed activists for what he described as a “massive drop in revenue” since he took over Twitter late last week. He did not say how much revenue had dropped.
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
The speed and size of the cuts also drew vicious backlash from the ex-employees, some of whom threatened to sue Musk and Twitter for denying them their right to employment at the company.
At least one lawsuit was filed Thursday in San Francisco alleging that Twitter intends to lay off more workers and has violated federal law by not providing the required notice.
The company had told employees by email that they would find out by 9 a.m. PDT (noon EDT) if they had been laid off. It did not say how many of the roughly 7,500 employees would lose their jobs.
Musk hasn’t commented on the layoffs themselves.
However, he didn’t confirm or correct investor Ron Baron at a Friday conference in New York when he asked the billionaire Tesla CEO how much money he would save after he “fired half of Twitter.”
“The activist groups have been successful in causing a massive drop in Twitter advertising revenue, and we’ve done our absolute best to appease them and nothing is working,” Musk said.
Some employees of the San Francisco-based company got clues about their pending dismissal when they lost access to their work accounts hours earlier.
They and others tweeted messages of support using the hashtag #OneTeam. The email to staff said job reductions were “necessary to ensure the company’s success moving forward.”
No other social media platform comes close to Twitter as a place where public agencies and other vital service providers—election boards, police departments, utilities, schools and news outlets—keep people reliably informed. Many fear Musk’s layoffs will gut it and render it lawless.
Several employees who tweeted about losing their jobs said Twitter also eliminated their entire teams, including one focused on human rights and global conflicts, another checking Twitter’s algorithms for bias in how tweets get amplified, and an engineering team devoted to making the social platform more accessible for people with disabilities.
Twitter’s employees have been expecting layoffs since Musk took the helm. Already, he has fired top executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal, on his first day as owner.
Musk also had removed the company’s board of directors and installed himself as the sole board member. As the emailed notices went out, many Twitter employees took to the platform to express support for each other—often simply tweeting blue heart emojis to signify its blue bird logo—and salute emojis in replies to each other.
Despite the pain inflicted on their leftist bretheren, cancel-culture activists escalated their calls Friday for brands to pause advertising buys on the platform.
Leaders with the organizations Free Press and Color of Change said they spoke with Musk on Tuesday, and he promised to retain and enforce election integrity measures already in place.
As of Friday, Musk and Twitter had given no public notice of the coming layoffs, according to a spokesperson for California’s Employment Development Department.
That’s even though the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification statute requires employers with at least 100 workers to disclose layoffs involving 500 or more employees, regardless of whether a company is publicly traded or privately held.
A lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of one employee who was laid off and three others who were locked out of their work accounts. It alleges Twitter intends to lay off more employees and has violated the law by not providing the required notice.
The layoffs affected Twitter’s offices around the world. In the United Kingdom, Twitter would be required by law to give employees notice, said Emma Bartlett, a partner specializing in employment and partnership law at CM Murray LLP.
In the case of mass firings, failure to notify the government could “have criminal penalties associated with it,’’ Bartlett said, adding that whether criminal sanctions are ever applied is another question.
The speed of the layoffs could also open Musk and Twitter up to discrimination claims if it turns out, for instance, that they disproportionally affected women, people of color or older workers.
Employment lawyer Peter Rahbar said most employers “take great care in doing layoffs of this magnitude” to make they are justified and don’t unfairly discriminate or bring unwanted attention to the company.
“For some reason, he wants to lay off half the company without doing any due diligence on what these people do or who they are and without any regards to the law,” Rahbar said.
Big companies including General Motors, REI, General Mills and Audi have all paused ads on Twitter due to questions about how it will operate under Musk. Volkswagen Group said it is recommending its brands, which include Skoda, Seat, Cupra, Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley, Porsche and Ducati, pause paid activities until Twitter issues revised brand safety guidelines.
Twitter advertisers have steadily declined since Musk agreed to buy Twitter in April, according to MediaRadar, which tracks ad buys.
Between January and April, the average number of advertisers on Twitter was 3,350. From May through September, the number dropped to 3,100. Prior to July, more than 1,000 new advertisers were spending on Twitter every month. In July and August, that number dropped to roughly 200.
One company that hasn’t stepped away is SoFi, the online banking company run by Twitter’s former COO, Anthony Noto. SoFi has been running promoted tweets—ads on Twitter’s platform—offering to pay its customers Twitter Blue platform.
“The audience we are trying to reach is there,” SoFi said, but it is still monitoring risks on Twitter and could pull its campaign.
Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg said there is “little Musk can say to appease advertisers when he’s keeping the company in a constant state of uncertainty and turmoil, and appears indifferent to Twitter employees and the law.”
“Musk needs advertisers more than they need him,” she said. “Pulling ads from Twitter is a quick and painless decision for most brands.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press