A 4 am mail, then the uncertainty: Twitter on a mass layoff spree

“It’s been a tough day.” “I’m not sure how long I’m here for.” “I’m taking my time to process all this.”

A significant part of employees at Twitter India woke up to revoked access to the company’s systems and a cloud of uncertainty on Friday morning, after Elon Musk, the world’s richest person — who took over the social media giant last month — initiated an erratic mass layoff spree impacting people working for the company across the world.

Almost all people in Twitter India’s marketing, communications and engineering teams were impacted by the downsizing, sources said. The public policy team was also partially impacted, The Indian Express has learnt. At the time of publishing, the exact number of Twitter India employees impacted as part of the mass layoffs could not be ascertained. The company has 250-300 employees in the country. At around 4 AM on Friday, the company sent an email to impacted employees across the world in their personal mailboxes, informing them that they will lose access to Twitter’s internal systems including Slack and emails.

Conversations with people that still had their jobs indicated an uncertainty over their future at the company. One staffer said that the “layoffs had no criteria whatsoever, and the entire process seems like a game of Russian roulette”. Another said, “It’s [the layoffs] really heavy. I’m here as of now, until maybe I’m not”. A third staffer said that some employees at the company had voluntarily resigned just before the global mass layoffs were triggered by the new leadership. The departure of employees en masse from Twitter also leaves in the lurch a number of significant actions that the company was involved in India. For instance, the company had earlier this year sued the Indian government over some of its censorship orders, calling it a violation of free speech. With a large chunk of the policy team now gone, and Musk’s belief that the lawsuit jeopardised the company’s business in the country, the fate of that legal action looks unclear.

Twitter did not respond to queries about the exact extent of layoffs in India and the future of its lawsuit in the country.

In the US, a lawsuit has already been filed challenging Friday’s mass layoffs. Twitter staff in California have sued the company for violating the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires companies to give 60-days advance notice of mass layoffs.

Musk reportedly has intentions of firing almost half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees globally. “In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday,” Twitter had said in an unsigned company-wide email on Thursday. These, however, are not the first cuts Musk has made to the social media platform’s workforce. When he took over the company in October, he immediately fired some of the company’s top executives, including its CEO, Parag Agrawal, and chief counsel Vijaya Gadde, among others.

The mass layoffs come as Musk finds himself under pressure to generate profits at Twitter after buying the company at an inflated price. When he bought his first stake in Twitter, it was trading at $33.03 per share and he finally closed the deal for $44 billion, paying $54.20 per share. He has already sold Tesla stock worth more than $8 billion to finance the deal. Even though Twitter is no longer a publicly traded company after Musk’s takeover, it will still be accountable to private equity investors. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia is now the second-largest investor in Twitter after Musk. Another investor, Changpeng Zhao, CEO and founder of bitcoin firm Binance, has previously expressed support for staff cuts.

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