Major layoffs at Twitter appear to be imminent as new owner Elon Musk assumes control and charts a new direction as a private company.
Initial job cuts are expected to impact around a quarter of the staff and begin prior to Nov. 1, according to The Washington Post. Shortly after closing his buyout deal last week, Musk fired four of Twitter’s top leaders and has since floated new ideas for the social network, including charging users a $20 monthly fee for verification, a content moderation council with “diverse viewpoints” and bringing Vine back from the dead.
Tech investors David Sacks and Jason Calacanis, as well as high-profile attorney Alex Spiro, are among the team that Musk has reportedly brought in to help manage the transition. Twitter’s board members were removed from their positions with the closure of the acquisition, according to a regulatory filing, leaving Musk as the company’s sole director.
And Musk has wasted no time ruffling feathers. On Sunday, it was reported that he gave Twitter engineers until Nov. 7 to introduce paid verifications or risk getting fired.
After he completed his purchase of the company and showed up to its headquarters carrying a porcelain sink, the new “Chief Twit” also divulged that he thought one of the most “messed up” things at Twitter was that “there seem to be 10 people ‘managing’ for every one person coding.”
A Twitter employee told The Standard that staff from other Musk companies have come in to shadow and monitor the company’s staff. Employees also report some colleagues downloading past performance reviews to provide evidence of their contributions to the company in preparation for layoffs.
Calacanis, an angel investor and podcaster, was one of Musk’s biggest cheerleaders in the run-up to the deal, as evidenced by texts between the two men that were revealed as part of a legal battle between the billionaire and Twitter.
Calacanis sent what he called a “back of the envelope” calculation showing that Twitter’s revenue per employee was far behind Google and Apple. He wrote that a Twitter headcount of 3,000 would bring revenue per employee more in line with “industry standard.”
Citing an anonymous source familiar with Musk’s plans, The Post reported that layoffs are expected across nearly all departments with a particular impact on sales, product, engineering, legal and trust and safety teams.
Cost reduction is a top priority for steadying the social media company, which is loaded with some $13 billion in debt, partly due to the financing of Musk’s acquisition. That means annual interest payments ballooning from $50 million annually to around $1 billion.
Ahead of the deal, Musk reportedly told prospective investors he planned to cut nearly 75% from the company’s total headcount of around 7,500 people. While Musk pushed back on that figure, he has not publicly confirmed how deep any layoffs will be.
Blind is an anonymous online community for employees in tech, finance and other industries to discuss workplace issues and review their employers. Before users can participate in the community, they must verify their work email address.
Blind’s Twitter community was abuzz with Musk takeover chatter on Monday. Several employees expressed feeling in the dark about impending changes at the company.
“Personally, I’m sticking around unless I’m let go,” a Blind-verified Twitter employee wrote about the layoffs. “I think we’re all mentally prepared for either outcome, but if we are able to stay [maybe] we can show [Musk] and his team the kind of challenges we face everyday so that they can understand them.”
Company reviews posted Monday ahead of rumored layoffs describe a grim atmosphere.
“Get ready to work over the weekends, 24/7 basically,” a current software engineer wrote in a 1-star review.
“All my solid coworkers are leaving now because new ownership is grinding them into the ground,” another engineer wrote. “New leadership is uncommunicative, patronizing and suspicious of existing employees.”
A legal operations employee agreed, writing on the same day that “management is not always transparent.”
In a letter to advertisers last week, Musk tried to stem concerns that hate speech and misinformation would be on the rise again after his takeover. He said that he did not want Twitter to be “a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences.”
But by Saturday, Musk responded to a Hillary Clinton tweet criticizing Republican extremism in the wake of the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband by writing: “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye.”
He then shared a link to a conspiracy theory that alleges that Mr. Pelosi was drunk and in a fight with a male prostitute. After fierce blowback, Musk later deleted the tweet.
Shortly after his purchase closed, he also announced that the company would be forming a content moderation council with “widely diverse viewpoints.”
Until then, Musk said that no major content decisions or reinstatements of banned accounts—such as Donald Trump’s—will happen.
Ahmed Banafa, a professor of engineering at San Jose State University, said he was skeptical that Musk could slash Twitter into profitability, given that certain core functions can’t be easily automated.
He also pointed out that fewer employees could exacerbate issues with security and hate speech.
“When you talk about content moderation, keeping an eye on what’s going on on the website, you need a human force,” Banafa said. “If you cut a major number of the people who are taking care of this, the hacking will be easier, the spam will be easier and the hate will be easier.”
Kevin Truong can be reached at email@example.com