Elon Musk lays off Twitter staff following takeover

Judah Duke

Business mogul Elon Musk initiated sweeping staff changes and added fuel to online discussions speculating Twitter Inc.’s future after assuming control of the social media platform on Oct. 27.

According to documents filed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Musk disbanded the board of directors as well as policy and legal team leaders right away — naming himself sole owner, operator and CEO.

Musk signaled an overhaul of Twitter’s corporate management on Oct. 27, his first day as the company’s CEO. He dismissed Parag Agrawal from his CEO role, Ned Segal from his chief financial officer role and Vijaya Gadde from her chief legal officer role.

Musk then met with an inner circle of longtime associates, which included his lawyer Alex Spiro and Twitter’s remaining senior executives. The group reportedly explored the company’s official response to content moderation and spam. They also discussed their plan to cut the company’s staff by at least 25%.

Longtime Musk associates David Sacks and Jason Calacanis were both listed in the company’s directory as “staff software engineer[s]” with official company emails.

Mass layoffs began during the week of Oct. 31, and by its end on Nov. 4, 50% of Twitter’s staff were laid off.

Workers of Musk’s other companies were also authorized to work for Twitter, according to internal documents retrieved by CNBC. At least 50 high-level software engineers behind Tesla Inc.’s autopilot feature were brought over to review coding.

Musk then announced changes to Twitter’s user verification process, which were highly publicized.

Musk described “Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark” with a derogatory word in a Nov. 1 tweet.

“Power to the people!” he tweeted, adding that Twitter Blue subscribers will receive the verification mark. The premium plan, which previously offered no opportunities for account verification — will cost $8 per month.

The plan led to criticism from Twitter users, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Musk responded with numerous tweets and memes, tweeting “Your feedback is appreciated, now pay $8.”

In Twitter’s latest iOS update in Apple Inc.’s App Store, it noted the changes for Twitter Blue, echoing statements Musk made at Baron Funds’ 29th annual investment conference. Searches on the platform will give “priority ranking” to verified users to combat the “scams, spam and bots.”

Use of racial slurs reportedly rose on the platform following Musk’s takeover. Use of the N-word jumped nearly 500%, but Twitter said nearly 50,000 tweets were posted by only 300 accounts within 12 hours, indicating an isolated organized effort.

Musk tweeted that a “massive drop in revenue” occurred for the company with nearly $4 million gone per day.

Activist groups pressured advertisers to avoid having brands associate with the platform’s content. Interpublic Group, a major advertisement buyer that provides service to many large consumer brands like Unilever PLC and The Coca-Cola Co., advised companies to pause spending on Twitter advertisements.

Most of the laid-off staff so far came from the communications team, content curation team, human rights team and machine learning ethics team. Twitter management reportedly asked former employees to return to the company, according to Reuters.

“Sorry to @- everybody on the weekend but I wanted to pass along that we have the opportunity to ask folks that were left off if they will come back,” a Twitter staff member said on the company’s Slack server, as reported by Platformer writer Casey Newton.

While these changes were made ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, people concerned about misinformation and security have used the opportunity to criticize Musk. The future of Twitter as a business will continue to unfold.