Twitter employees say goodbye after mass layoffs as site’s future in question

Twitter, normally the web’s window to the world, turned inward on Friday as former employees took to the site to announce they were among thousands of employees who have reportedly been laid off, a week after Elon Musk took over the social media service.

What’s next for the site is unknown, but tweets from former “Tweeps”, as the employees are known, seemed to herald a new era for Twitter – long the place of global city for politicians, journalists, public figures and others. — as many of the company’s digital ethics experts, human rights lawyers, moderators and engineers bid farewell.

One group that was seemingly wiped out entirely, or nearly so, was its machine learning ethics, transparency and accountability team led by Rumman Chowdhury, who

published research

last year on how Twitter’s algorithm amplifies right-wing content.

posted a screenshot
from her Gmail Twitter account last night showing she couldn’t log in, and
other engineers
on the team
that it had been dissolved.

Former head of the firm’s curation team, Andrew Haigh,
the department responsible for adding context to viral tweets, among other content on the site, was gone.

Corporate Security and Integrity Manager Yoel Roth
said on Twitter
that 15% of the team had been made redundant, with “our front-line moderation staff suffering the least impact”. He said most of the company’s more than 2,000 content moderators were unaffected by the layoffs.

The company’s former human rights lawyer said she, too, was fired along with her entire department. San Francisco‘s Shannon Raj Singh
tweeted friday
that she and her colleagues had worked on protecting people at risk in conflict zones such as Ukraine, Ethiopia and Afghanistan, based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights ‘man.

The scale of the layoffs was astonishing, even unexpected, with reports telegraphed in recent weeks that Musk could lay off up to 75% of the company’s workforce, which once numbered 7,500.

Musk apparently ignored state requirements that layoffs of more than 50 people at companies of a certain size, like Twitter, require notice or a company could face civil penalties. A federal lawsuit had already been filed over the issue in San Francisco, Bloomberg reported, although District Six Supervisor Matt Dorsey said in a press release Friday afternoon that Twitter had informed the city layoffs, which would affect 784 employees in its San Francisco offices. to January 4, 2023.

A copy of the Twitter notice included in the statement showed it was sent to the state’s Department of Employment Development, Mayor London Breed and the Workforce Development Board of the city. A breakdown of the job titles affected showed that the majority, 592, were classified as “professional” only. In addition, 147 first- or middle-level civil servants and managers, 25 administrative support workers, 11 salespeople and nine managers and senior managers and executives were also to be laid off.

Musk took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to explain the layoffs, with no evidence to back up his claims.

“When it comes to reducing the strength of Twitter, unfortunately, there is no other choice when the company is losing over $4 million a day. Everyone who exits has been offered 3 months of severance pay, i.e. 50% more than the legal obligation”,
he wrote.

“It’s going fast but it’s something people have been anticipating since April,” said a former Twitter employee who left several years ago and had contact with people who were made redundant.

Former employees were not the only ones to express their dissatisfaction with the job cuts.

“Right now I have a stomach ache,” Liza Murawski said as she exited her apartment and looked across the street at the Twitter building with her dog, Swoon, on Friday.

“Can you imagine? That’s exactly the personality of this generation,” said Murawski, a mental health advocate and community activist. “What kind of game is this, with human emotion?”

Advertisers including German automaker Audi and grocery giant General Mills suspended advertising on the site on Friday. Other companies had previously announced similar actions, such as questions about how Musk’s vision as a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist will manifest on the site, with elections just days away and the airing of misinformation a huge concern.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson released a statement on Friday calling on all companies to remove their advertising from Twitter.

“It is immoral, dangerous and very destructive to our democracy for an advertiser to fund a platform that fuels hate speech, election denial and conspiracy theories, he said.

On Friday, the company already saw a “massive drop in revenue,” caused by what it said were “activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and that we did everything we could to appease the activists.”

As employees, users and advertisers nervously watch what will become of the site, the Mid-Market area where the Twitter building is located could also see changes due to Musk’s decisions.

The remaining employees would be required to return to the office full-time, a reversal of the permanent work-from-anywhere policy the company has in place during the pandemic and in line with Musk’s back-to-office orders at Tesla this year.

The company has been linked to the area’s fortunes since moving into the former Western Furniture Exchange and Merchandise Mart building on Market Street between Ninth and Tenth Streets after the city approved a tax on salaries now expired to revitalize the devastated area.

Returning workers would also fit with Breed’s efforts to bring more people to the beleaguered city center to boost spending and tax revenue, although she recently said things are unlikely to go back to the way they were. with hybrid and remote work here to stay.

If Twitter keeps its headquarters on Market Street (Musk announced he would move Tesla’s headquarters to Texas last year), it would be one of the only remaining tech companies in the area.

Block, founded by former Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey, is not renewing its decade-long lease at 1455 Market St., and Uber has moved its headquarters to a new complex in Mission Bay.

Of course, many employees who have taken advantage of telework to move away and who have not been made redundant can leave the company. And that could be part of the goal, Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom previously told The Chronicle.

“Most fully remote Twitter workers have likely moved away” from San Francisco, Bloom said. “I’d be surprised if half, maybe a quarter of them start coming back,” along with those who aren’t looking for jobs elsewhere.

Chronicle writer Roland Li contributed to this report.

Chase DiFeliciantonio and Annie Vainshtein are writers for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email:, Twitter: @ChaseDiFelice, @annievain

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