Twitter employees are abandoning Elon Musk, Twitter’s owner and self-described ‘chief twit,’ in droves after his messy first few weeks at the blue bird app.
Earlier this week, Musk presented his new employees with an ultimatum: commit to a new “hardcore” Twitter, which involved “working long hours at high intensity” and delivering only “exceptional” performance, or leave with three months of severance pay. The billionaire gave employees until Thursday at 5 p.m. ET to decide, and received a rude awakening when a significant number of employees did, in fact, choose to leave. He had already laid off half of them, after all.
Hundreds of Twitter employees decided to take Musk’s offer of severance and ditch the company, according to multiple outlets and tweets that employees themselves posted on Twitter under the #LoveWhereYouWorked hashtag. The exodus set off a chaotic scramble inside the company, with Musk and his advisers holding meetings with critical employees to convince them to stay. It’s unclear exactly how many employees have left, with Reuters estimating it’s more than 600 and the Washington Post stating it could be between 1,000-1,500.
As of Friday, Twitter had a mountain of problems and seemed to have an uncertain future. It is a very different company than it was three weeks ago, when Musk begrudgingly completed his $44 billion acquisition deal and came into Twitter’s headquarters carrying a sink.
On Friday morning, #RIPTwitter, #GoodbyeTwitter, #Twitterdown, and #Twittershutdown were trending in the U.S.
The same day, Downdetector reported a surge of Twitter outages on Thursday night. Gizmodo also witnessed outages while writing this article, including some that said a tweet been deleted only for it to reappear when opened in another window. Over at Downdetector, the outage reports continued to steadily increase.
When Musk sent out his email announcing “hardcore Twitter,” he told employees who wanted to stay to click “yes” and sign an online form by 5 p.m. ET on Thursday. Those who didn’t sign would be offered three months of severance.
That probably seemed like a good idea when Musk thought the majority of people would stay and adapt to his new demands of exceptionalism. However, as reported by the Platformer newsletter on Thursday, the billionaire’s brilliant idea to document who was staying using a form has resulted in disaster.
“Elon Musk and his team have a list of Twitter employees who signed the offer indicating they want to stay at Twitter 2.0,” Zoë Schiffer, Platformer’s managing editor, tweeted on Thursday. “Those names are in a spreadsheet. Now they’re trying to figure out who’s NOT on the sheet, who is on parental leave, who’s actively resigning in Slack...”
Engineers at Twitter and outside experts began warning about the possibility of the platform breaking shortly after Musk’s takeover. The Twitter owner’s cuts to 50% of the site’s staff significantly affected engineers maintaining its code base and left skeleton crews to handle any problems and cater to Musk’s “game-changing” product ideas.
However, as of Thursday, multiple critical systems didn’t even have that. Some had zero engineers maintaining them.
“I know of six critical systems (like ‘serving tweets’ levels of critical) which no longer have any engineers,” a former Twitter employee told the Washington Post. “There is no longer even a skeleton crew manning the system. It will continue to coast until it runs into something, and then it will stop.”
The Verge reported that Twitter’s traffic and front end engineering teams, which are in charge of directing engineering requests to the correct backend services, were either almost completely gone or entirely gone. The team who managed Twitter’s core system libraries, used by every engineer at the company, also resigned.
“You cannot run Twitter without this team,” an employee who quit told the outlet.
Twitter Blue, one of Musk’s big bets to transform the company that’s set to be relaunched on Nov. 29, received yet another blow this week as key staffers on its development team decided to leave the company. According to Schiffer from Platformer, the designers leading the Blue verified project and its lead web engineer were among the throngs of people who quit on Thursday.
The $8 a month subscription product has been plagued by problems since Musk decided to include the verified checkmark as a Twitter Blue perk. The decision led to multiple people using their Blue subscription to impersonate high-profile accounts, causing chaos on the platform.
One of the most notable incidents involved pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. After a Blue-verified user changed their name to Eli Lilly and announced that insulin was now free, which was not true. The tweet from the fake verified account wiped out an estimated $15 billion from the company’s market cap. As a result, Eli Lilly paused on its advertising on Twitter, a move that’s estimated to cost the platform millions.
Besides the Twitter Blue team, reports indicate that the company’s entire payroll team, financial reporting team, and U.S. tax teams are gone. Twitter no longer has a communications department to turn to for comment or confirmation.
Half of Twitter’s trust and safety policy team quit on Thursday, according to the Washington Post. This included the majority of the people in charge of identifying misinformation, spam, fake accounts, and impersonation. The company’s content moderation team, which relies heavily on contractors, has also purportedly been hit hard. Last week, Musk fired about 4,400 of Twitter’s 5,500 contract employees.
These new gaps in its ranks could make it difficult for Twitter to comply with dis- and misinformation regulations around the world. In Germany, for instance, social media companies are required to quickly take down posts that include hate speech, fake news, and illegal material. Failure to do so can result in tens of millions in fines.
Also up in the air is how Twitter will comply with the consent decree issued to it by the Federal Trade Commission. The 10-year-old decree bars the company from allowing misrepresentation on its platform and requires it to maintain a robust program to safeguard user information.
On Thursday, seven Democratic senators, including Richard Blumenthal, Ed Markey, Dianne Feinstein, and Elizabeth Warren, sent the FTC a letter over Twitter’s “serious, willful disregard for the safety and security of its users” under Musk and encouraged it to “vigorously oversee its consent decree with Twitter.”
Last week, the FTC said it was “tracking the recent developments at Twitter with deep concern” after the resignations of key executives in charge of cybersecurity, compliance, and trust and safety.
Twitter’s owner, who is also the world’s richest man, is used to hearing only adulation from his followers and inner circle (although he’s never one to turn away from a fight with his haters.) Nonetheless, he likely didn’t expect to have demonstrators project personal insults towards him on Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters on Thursday.
The insults included “bankruptcy baby,” “petulant pimple,” “dictator’s asskisser,” “lawless oligarch,” “insecure colonizer,” “cruel hoarder,” and “space Karen,” among many others. It’s unclear who was behind the demonstration.
This likely didn’t help Musk’s paranoia. According to Platformer, Musk and his team have locked Twitter’s office buildings and revoked badge access. Offices will reopen next Monday.
“We’re hearing this is because Elon Musk and his team are terrified employees are going to sabotage the company. Also, they’re still trying to figure out which Twitter workers they need to cut access for,” Platformer’s Schiffer tweeted.
Meanwhile, on Twitter itself, the chief twit tried to project an image of calm on Thursday night and Friday morning. In his typical fashion, he made fun of people aghast over Twitter dying and said the people who quit didn’t concern him.
“The best people are staying, so I’m not super worried,” Musk tweeted.