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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 seeks to eliminate about half of Twitter’s workforce
  • Employees File Class Action Lawsuit Against Twitter
  • Staff lose access to systems
  • Volkswagen pulls ads

Nov 4 (Reuters) – Twitter Inc launched a major round of redundancies on Friday, alerting employees to their employment status by email after blocking entrances to offices and cutting off workers’ access to internal systems overnight. .

The move follows 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 cut spending.

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. The groups said Friday that they are increasing their pressure and demanding that brands remove their ads from Twitter globally.

“In an effort to put Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday,” Twitter said in an email to staff Thursday night announcing the cuts that occurred Friday, which was seen by Reuters.

The company was silent on the depth of the cuts, though internal plans reviewed by Reuters this week indicated that Musk was looking to cut around 3,700 Twitter employees, or about half of the workforce.

Staff working in engineering, communications, product, content curation, and machine learning ethics were among those affected by the layoffs, according to tweets from Twitter staff.

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

Musk has promised Restore freedom of expression while preventing Twitter from descending into a “hellscape”. However, his guarantees have failed to calm top advertiserswho have expressed concern about his takeover for months.

Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) recommend their brands Pause paid advertising on Twitter until further notice in the wake of the Musk acquisition, he said Friday. His comments echoed similar comments from other companies, including General Motors Co. (GM.N) and General Mills Inc. (GIS.N).

Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, which is part of the civil rights coalition, said he knew of two other major advertisers who were preparing to announce that they would stop ads on the platform.

Musk tweeted that his team had made no changes to content moderation and had done “everything possible” to appease the groups. “Extremely messy! They are (civil rights groups) trying to destroy free speech in America.”

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 immediately respond to a request for comment.

ACCESS TO CUTTING SYSTEMS

Dozens of employees tweeted that they lost access to work email and Slack channels before receiving an official notice, which they interpreted as a sign they had been laid off.

They tweeted 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 is responsible for “highlighting and contextualizing the best events and stories unfolding on Twitter,” was laid off, employees at the platform said. The company’s communications team in India was also laid off, according to a Twitter executive in Asia.

Also removed was a team that focused on investigating how Twitter used algorithms, a topic that was a top priority for Musk, according to a tweet from a former Twitter senior manager.

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

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 they had been fired cited Musk’s earlier tweet as saying that 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 Security and Integrity chief Yoel Roth appeared to have kept his job, as did VP of Product Keith Coleman, who launched a tool called Birdwatch for users to write notes on tweets they identify as misleading.

Musk last week endorsed Roth, citing his “high integrity” after Roth came under fire for tweets criticizing former US President Donald Trump years earlier. Musk also tweeted that he likes Birdwatch.

Roth and Coleman did not respond to requests for comment.

LOCKED DOORS

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 its 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 lawsuit also 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 Edited by Kenneth Li, Jason Neely, and Matthew Lewis

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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