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Twitter executes orders to fire around 3,700 employees, locks offices shut

Employees expecting to be fired over email have had access to company systems cut without warning

A phone showing Elon Musk's Twitter bio, which reads "Twitter Complaint Hotline", with the Twitter logo (a blue bird) in the background

Twitter has commenced a mass wave of layoffs that could see as many as 50% of the workforce fired, in the first major restructuring of the company since it was acquired by Elon Musk.

Twitter employees were notified on Thursday that by 09:00 PST on Friday 4 November, they would be made aware of the status of their employment via email.

Those remaining at the company would receive the notice sent to their Twitter email, while those fired would receive the notice to their personal email. Reportedly, the subject lines in both sets of emails are: 'Your Role at Twitter'.

At last count, Twitter had around 7,500 employees worldwide. It is expected that in all, the cut could see around 3,700 employees made redundant or just over 50% of the entire workforce.

“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,” the email read, according to a Washington Post reporter who tweeted a copy.

“We recognise 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.

“Given the nature of our distributed workforce and our desire to inform impacted individuals as quickly as possible, communications for this process will take place via email. By 9AM PST on Friday Nov. 4th, everyone will receive an individual email with the subject line: Your Role at Twitter.”

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Twitter offices have been temporarily closed. Despite choosing to notify employees of their redundancy by email, a number of employees have tweeted that before they could even be formally notified, they lost access to their company account, or had access to the company Slack revoked.

Following the notice, Twitter employees had reportedly taken to the company Slack channels to post a string of blue hearts, representative of the company’s trademark blue colour scheme. However, some employees were being removed from Slack even as this was taking place.

Rumman Chowdhury, a director at Twitter’s machine learning ethics, transparency and accountability (META) team tasked with improving Twitter’s machine learning (ML) and reducing algorithmic bias, tweeted that her Google password had been changed without her knowledge early on Thursday evening.

In a similar situation, Simon Balmain, the now former senior community manager at Twitter, tweeted that he “got remotely logged out of [his] work laptop and removed from Slack”.

Employees are also understood to be struggling with control of their Twitter accounts following their firing. Alex Heath from The Verge noted that Twitter requires employees to link their work emails to their accounts for two-factor authentication (2FA), but with impending loss of access to their emails are scrambling to disconnect the two.

Entire teams are reported to have been fired at once, with one employee alleging that all members of a team currently working on a paywall bypass feature, which Musk has promised as part of his pitch for paid Twitter verification, have been fired.

Bloomberg reported that a class action lawsuit has already been filed against Twitter for its handling of the layoff, alleging that the company has breached a requirement for mass layoffs of this kind to be conducted with 60 days' notice.

Criticism of Musk’s methodology

Mass layoffs of this kind have drawn media scrutiny and social media attention in the past. In 2021 Vishal Garg, CEO at Better.com, went viral for a video in which he fired 900 employees over a Zoom call.

Debates around the convenience and cruelty of such a method were had in the fallout, with some concluding that email and video calls are arguably an effective way to notify large groups of people of any change.

However, a number of journalists and former employees are already criticising the methodology Twitter is using to notify its employees of their job status. Particular anger is being aimed at Musk for failing to attach his name to the company-wide email notifying employees of the decision, which is simply signed “Twitter”.

After acquiring the company for $44 billion at the end of October, Musk dissolved the board of directors and has subsequently assumed the role of sole director and CEO of the company.

In the week since, rumours have alleged Musk would downsize Twitter both for economic and ideological reasons, as the company’s strategic moves towards for-profit verification and to promote ‘free speech’.

Reuters reported that Musk has ordered Twitter teams to free up $1 billion in infrastructure costs, with a reported deadline of 7 November. This is the same deadline that was alleged for the introduction of paid verification, and cuts could be made to Twitter’s cloud costs

The move comes amidst layoffs and hiring freezes by a number of tech giants. In October, Meta cancelled internships that it had already agreed to, in the name of cost-cutting, while cloud communications platform Twilio fired 11% of its workforce in September.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has ordered staff to slow hiring and be cautious around recruitment, as Google has urged its employees to improve productivity with ‘simplicity sprints’.

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