Elon Musk defends Twitter layoffs, saying staff given three months’ pay
"New owner says company is losing $4m a day as he tries to reassure advertisers over content moderation
Elon Musk has defended the mass layoffs at Twitter by saying axed employees received a three-month payment from the company, which is losing more than $4m a day.
The company began widespread staff cuts around the world on Friday, with suggestions that as many as half of its more than 7,500 staff could lose their jobs.
Musk tweeted on Friday evening: “Regarding Twitter’s reduction in force, unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day. Everyone exited was offered 3 months of severance.”
Musk is thought to want to drastically reduce costs at the company after completing his $44bn ($39bn) takeover of the platform last week.
He tweeted a series of posts by Twitter’s head of safety, Yoel Roth, which said: “Here are the facts about where Twitter’s Trust & Safety and moderation capacity stands today. While we said goodbye to incredibly talented friends and colleagues yesterday, our core moderation capabilities remain in place.
“Yesterday’s reduction in force affected approximately 15% of our Trust & Safety organisation (as opposed to approximately 50% cuts company-wide), with our front-line moderation staff experiencing the least impact.
“Last week, for security reasons, we restricted access to our internal tools for some users, including some members of my team. Most of the 2,000-plus content moderators working on front-line review were not impacted, and access will be fully restored in the coming days.
“More than 80% of our incoming content moderation volume was completely unaffected by this access change. The daily volume of moderation actions we take stayed steady through this period.”
Musk followed this with a tweet saying: “Again, to be crystal clear, Twitter’s strong commitment to content moderation remains absolutely unchanged. In fact, we have actually seen hateful speech at times this week decline *below* our prior norms, contrary to what you may read in the press.”
He had earlier accused “activist groups” of putting pressure on advertisers to leave the platform, causing a drop in revenue.
The Tesla owner also replied to posts and memes from users about advertising, in one saying: “Twitter will not censor accurate information about anything.”
Online safety groups and campaigners have expressed concerns about Musk’s plans to allow more free speech on the site and reverse permanent bans given to controversial figures including Donald Trump.
Joe Biden said at a campaign event in Illinois on Friday night: “Now what are we all worried about? Elon Musk, who goes out and buys an outfit that sends and spews lies all across the world. How do we expect kids to be able to understand what is at stake?”
In the UK, the Prospect union, which represents thousands of technology workers including Twitter employees, said in a letter to the business secretary, Grant Shapps, that the firm had acted “in an unacceptable way”.
Simon Deakin, a professor of law at the University of Cambridge, said that if 100 or more employees of a company are sacked within a period of 90 days, the business secretary must be notified 45 days before the first dismissal. Where there are more than 20 but fewer than 100 potential losses, the period is 30 days.
Deakin said: “If there’s no effective notice given here then there could be a fine, so the employer or director could be fined. And the fine currently doesn’t have a limit and it’s a criminal offence.
“If they are making 100 workers redundant then there’s a possibility of a criminal offence being committed, we don’t know the full story, what is the establishment and maybe they have given notice.”
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