Scores of Twitter employees unceremoniously lost access to their work emails late Thursday as Elon Musk commenced a brutal round of layoffs. The workers have reacted with mixed emotions; some are devastated, having spent years at the social media giant. Others are happy to finally exit the chaos.
One now-former staffer told The Daily Beast that it was a “tremendously shitty way” to handle the layoffs. She said she found out she was terminated after she lost access to Slack, a corporate messaging platform.
The worst part, she told The Daily Beast, was watching waves of her colleagues acknowledge overnight that they were also out of jobs, likening the mass layoffs to the famous “snap” scene from Avengers: Infinity War. Musk is expected to axe about half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees.
The ex-staffer said she was strangely happy to be leaving, but noted that “a lot of people aren’t.” She expressed skepticism about whether the company will be able to survive such drastic cuts, including to engineering teams, which she said were already operating with skeleton crews following months of attrition.
Another now ex-employee told The Daily Beast late Thursday that he had also lost access to his work email. Just last week, the staffer had expressed optimism about Twitter’s future, even under Musk. But by yesterday, things had changed, he said. He and his co-workers began exchanging goodbye messages, “just in case.”
“I was happy about Elon buying Twitter,” he said, adding a clown emoji in reference to his own judgment.
Hundreds of current and former employees—who refer to themselves as tweeps—have taken to social media to announce their terminations, reminisce on their time at the company, or offer support to outgoing colleagues.
“I’m officially unemployed. At least the uncertainty is over,” a departing information security manager wrote on LinkedIn. “My hope for the tweeps remaining is that you hold true to the values and culture that brought you to Twitter and made it what it was and still could be.”
Details about the layoffs were still emerging on Friday afternoon, but the cuts reportedly affected departments across the business, from the curation team (which works to curb misinformation and contextualize news), to the communications department, to the entire human rights team.
Shannon Raj Singh, who until Thursday was a human rights counsel at Twitter, tweeted that she was “enormously proud” of her team’s work protecting “those at-risk in global conflicts & crises including Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.”
Musk closed his $44 billion takeover of the company last month, ending a six-month period of excruciating uncertainty. He immediately resolved to make major changes, such as charging users to verify their accounts, creating a content moderation council, and drastically reducing overhead.
In a research note last week, Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives predicted that the buyout “will go down as one of the most overpaid tech acquisitions in the history” of mergers and acquisitions deals on Wall Street, illustrating the financial pressure Musk immediately faces.
Musk acknowledged in October that the deal was overpriced, though he added that he still saw potential for a long-term return. He had first agreed to buy Twitter in April, then spent months trying to wriggle out of the transaction, arguing that the company had misled investors about the amount of spam and fake accounts on its platform.
The dispute made its way to Delaware court, where a trial was expected to begin last month, until the billionaire abruptly agreed to finalize the transaction.
Now in command, Musk is seemingly implementing the same harsh work culture at Twitter as at SpaceX and Tesla, two of his other businesses. Company “rest days” have reportedly been removed from employees’ work calendar, and Twitter’s flexible work-from-home policies are slated to be eliminated.
Staffers have scrambled to meet onerous deadlines for product upgrades imposed by Musk. On Wednesday, a picture of Twitter’s director of product management apparently huddled in a sleeping bag went viral.
As of Friday, there were still questions about whether a mass layoff was legal. According to The New York Times, under both California and federal regulations, companies must give notice before such events, but as of Wednesday, “California’s Employment Development Department said it hadn’t received any such notice.”
Multiple recent employees filed a lawsuit on Thursday in San Francisco court, alleging that Twitter may have violated labor protections and demanding that the company “provide the requisite notice or severance payment in connection with the anticipated layoffs.”
Musk, seemingly in reference to the cost-cutting, claimed on Friday that Twitter has already experienced “a massive drop in revenue” under his ownership, which he blamed on “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!” he added. “They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.”