IAccording to media reports, the new owner Elon Musk has fired a number of employees who have been critical of him, whether publicly on Twitter itself or on the internal communication platform Slack. In the meantime, he repeatedly made it clear to the remaining employees that a stricter regime would prevail under him.
The Washington Post reported that he emailed workers an ultimatum on Wednesday. He asked them to make a commitment to the company by clicking on a link by Thursday, in which the culture must be “extremely hardcore” in the future. That means long days under high pressure, and only “extraordinary performance” is acceptable. Anyone who does not sign on time must go and will receive a severance payment of three months’ salary.
Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion on Oct. 27 and immediately began cracking down. He immediately fired former CEO Parag Agrawal and other top executives, and just over a week after the acquisition was completed, he laid off around half of the 7,500 employees. A few days later, he also parted ways with a large portion of the freelance staff, including those in charge of content moderation.
Several senior Twitter executives left voluntarily. In addition to his duties as CEO of electric car manufacturer Tesla and aerospace company SpaceX, Musk has taken over the helm of Twitter himself for the time being, supported by a group of advisors that include long-time confidants of his.
The fact that Musk has now apparently fired other employees because they criticized him is particularly remarkable because he presented himself as an advocate of free speech in connection with the Twitter takeover. He has accused Twitter of excessive censorship of content and has suggested that this will change under him. He has also said he wants to unban former US President Donald Trump from Twitter.
Look for rebellious critics
As the “New York Times” wrote, Musk first fired a few critical employees and then asked his team to systematically comb through Twitter entries and internal communication channels and create a list of “unruly employees”. These people were then informed of their dismissal by email during the night from Monday to Tuesday, on the grounds that they had violated company guidelines. A total of around two dozen employees were affected.
Actually, like some other representatives of the technology industry, Twitter has always cultivated a culture in which internal criticism was tolerated. As the online publication “Platformer” writes, there have not been any official changes to the guidelines to date.
A trigger for the wave of layoffs of critical employees was apparently reactions from some Twitter employees to a tweet from Musk in which he apologized for the fact that the service was very slow in some countries and gave a technical explanation for this. Eric Frohnhoefer, a software engineer at the company, subsequently tweeted that this explanation was false and then had a public exchange with Musk. Eventually, Musk tweeted that he had “fired” the software developer, although he later deleted the tweet. Frohnhoefer responded with an emoji saluting with his right hand.
Small war by means of tweets
This emoji has been used by many laid-off Twitter employees over the past few weeks. Another software developer insinuated that Musk had “no idea” in a heartily worded tweet. He too was fired. While Musk hasn’t directly confirmed the series of layoffs over criticism, he did suggest in a sarcastic tweet that the reports were accurate. In response to a tweet mentioning this, he replied: “I would like to apologize for firing these geniuses. Her immense talent will no doubt be very useful elsewhere.”
There is unrest not only in the staff, but also around the product strategy. The new edition of the Blue subscription launched under Musk, which allows users to have their accounts verified with a blue tick for $8 a month, was immediately stopped again after accounts spread in which users identified themselves as celebrities or as companies spent. As Musk now tweeted, the service is scheduled to return in a revised form on November 29th.