Web money

The account of a Twitter employee who survived the layoff day

Since Elon Musk took over Twitter last week, company employees described an atmosphere of lingering chaos. News about their jobs is more likely to come from reporters than company management. Musk had made it clear that he intended to lay off much of the staff (although he denied early reports that it would be seventy-five percent), and on Friday the layoffs began in earnest. Employees learned of their fate through emails, sent to their company accounts if they kept their jobs and to their personal accounts if they were deemed useless. Entire teams disappeared, including one on machine learning ethics, and employee resource groups like Twitter Women were reportedly dismantled. In total, about half of the staff have been made redundant. (In the “Platformer” newsletter, Casey Newton reports that the terminated employees will undergo a two-month paid “non-work” period in order to keep Twitter in compliance with labor laws.) Many “tweeps” commemorated their work on the platform they had helped build, tweeting mournfully through their former colleagues accompanied by blue heart emojis. An employee, who did not lose his job but said he might have preferred, spoke anonymously to the new yorker Friday morning. They described seeing some co-workers get the boot and others aligning themselves with Musk, as well as their feelings of guilt and apprehension about staying with the company. They said they remain hopeful that Twitter can improve as a product under the new regime, even as its culture has deteriorated. But that doesn’t mean they want to stay.

“I got the email saying I still had a job. The anticipation was not so stressful for me. I think it was for a lot of people, especially those on work visas. Twitter is a pretty light place. People aren’t really fierce. Work-life balance is good, maybe that’s why we didn’t make enough money. I went to the office yesterday just because it might have been my last day. I wanted to say hello and goodbye to my colleagues. The mood around the office was . . . people were freaking out less than just joking about it, dark humor. We have a shitposting channel on Slack and people are pretty good at posting memes about the acquisition. But I don’t think people are joking now.

“Elon started talking about buying Twitter in April. We knew things were going when people posted Elon’s sink tweet in Slack. But then we found out from the news that Parag [Agrawal], our CEO, along with the CFO, Chief Legal Officer, and Chief General Counsel were all gone. Our account manager posted on Twitter that she quit on Friday. We hear nothing at all from inside the company.

“If I was a more thoughtful person, I probably would have started looking for other jobs two or three months ago. Finding another job takes a lot of effort, so I stayed. Many people have left in recent weeks because they were looking for a new job anyway. Many people who have not been released are likely to leave.

“I understand when people say they feel guilty when their colleagues are fired, because it’s really shitty now. There’s already an ex-Twitter Slack that a lot of people joined before they even knew they were fired. In fact, I wanted to be fired. It would have given a sort of finality to everything. Maybe I could have counted on the severance package, but I don’t know if Elon is going to honor that.

“Over the past week, many employees have been dragged into special projects. From what I’ve read, they’re relaunching Vine, revamping the blue check verification feature, and creating paid direct messages. Since last Thursday, the people working on these projects have been working 24/7. Some people were working hard because they were just really good business people, which I respect, not because they were picking on Elon, but because the website was going to go down if they didn’t do their work.

“Some choices concern me. Our former legal officer, Vijaya Gadde, was the one who made the content moderation policy, and now she’s gone. She was an advocate for the moderation of political content. I heard that managers are now supposed to code, because Elon hates management. One of the things he didn’t like about the company was that the manager-to-engineer ratio was too high. It seems that he wants to put engineers at the head of the company.

“In general, the culture on Twitter is quite progressive politically. For the super-majority of people, the feeling towards Elon is negative – and now it’s hellish. The corporate culture will change a lot under Elon. When he brought in his own, it was as if Obama’s employees must have felt when they were going through Trump’s transition. This feeling of intrusion. None of the people who come back are people Twitter employees would like to work with.

“Twitter occupies an interesting part of the social media landscape. I don’t think there is a service that I know of that can replace it. Using Twitter is a bit like a Rorschach test: your feed will look like the type of people you follow. I like Twitter, because I think I’m the right kind of people. I don’t think any other platform has the same number of scholars, writers, poets, and filmmakers hanging out and posting whatever they like to post. It’s smart, witty, silly, funny.

“All products are less about ideas and more about execution. Now that people are a bit hesitant about TikTok’s data issues, maybe a revived Vine can do something. If Twitter can generate some sort of revenue or attracting more users this way it could be called a success Maybe this verification thing could get rid of the spam and lead to more high quality users I can see things going though in the other direction: nobody registers, Elon does not earn money according to the subscribers.

“I’m strangely not so pessimistic about content moderation. People on the right are already crazy about Elon Musk because he’s not as non-moderator as they think. One idea is that content moderation is good for business. If Elon is optimizing for profit, it would be prudent for him to implement the type of content moderation policies that would attract more advertisers.

“In terms of product, Elon owning Twitter might be a positive outcome, but I think it probably isn’t in terms of company culture. Twitter users are nice people, they get There are a lot of issues, but overall I like the product. I wouldn’t want to work for Facebook or Uber, but I thought Twitter was something I could justify to myself and of my friends. That’s what a lot of people who joined Twitter believed. Now there’s something morally disgusting about working for someone like Elon Musk, helping him achieve everything he tries to realize. Jeff Bezos looks like a pretty good guy compared to Elon. One of the main reasons I joined Twitter has changed forever, so I don’t plan on sticking around for long.