Twitter Inc. has suffered “a massive drop in revenue” because of advertisers cutting back on using the social-media platform, new owner
said Friday, as the company started sweeping layoffs just over a week after the billionaire took it over.
Mr. Musk, in a tweet Friday, blamed the cutback in advertising on “activist groups pressuring advertisers.” He said that the company hadn’t changed content moderation and had tried to address activists’ concerns. “Extremely messed up!” he said, casting the pullback as an assault on free speech.
Mr. Musk’s remarks came after several big-name advertisers, including food company
General Mills Inc.,
Mondelez International Inc.,
and others have temporarily paused their Twitter advertising in the wake of the takeover of the company by Mr. Musk, The Wall Street Journal has reported. German car-making giant
said it had recommended to its various brands they pause advertising on Twitter to assess any revisions the company makes to its brand safety guidelines.
Mr. Musk’s tweet comes after Twitter, in a message sent to staff Thursday, said staffers would be notified by 9 a.m. Friday if they had lost their position or were still employed, the Journal reported.
Twitter by early Friday began notifying employees who had been laid off, according to documents viewed by the Journal.
Roughly 50% of Twitter’s workforce has been hit with layoffs, according to an email sent overnight to one of those affected in the U.S. that was viewed by the Journal. It didn’t specify what departments the terminated employees worked in.
Twitter had more than 7,500 employees at the start of this year, according to a regulatory filing.
The staff reductions were intended “to place Twitter on a healthy path,” according to the company’s Thursday email. “We recognize that this will impact a number of individuals who have made valuable contributions to Twitter, but this action is unfortunately necessary to ensure the company’s success moving forward,” the company added.
In the layoff emails, Twitter said employees assigned “nonworking” status would continue to receive compensation and benefits through a separation date, which for one person was designated as early February and for another early January. It said to expect to receive one month’s base pay in severance approximately 45 days after the termination date, in addition to providing instructions for returning company property such as laptops.
Twitter didn’t say whether employees should expect to receive year-end bonuses, which historically have been based on individual and company performance. The company also didn’t mention whether employees would receive equity payments during the nonworking period.
Some employees said they had lost access to Twitter communication tools overnight. An email sent to an employee in Canada and seen by the Journal said that suspended access to the company’s systems didn’t mean the person’s employment has been terminated.
The layoffs cap a tumultuous period for Twitter staff that began in April, when the company disclosed Mr. Musk had become its largest individual shareholder. Mr. Musk then agreed to join Twitter’s board, before deciding not to. He launched a bid for the company that Twitter eventually accepted. Weeks later Mr. Musk raised questions about the deal, then tried to abandon it, before reversing course again last month and saying he would go ahead with the transaction. Along the way, he at times criticized the company and its executives.
The Thursday email said Twitter’s offices would be temporarily closed to ensure the safety of employees, the company’s systems and customer data. Employees who were in an office or on their way to one were asked to go home, according to the email.
Twitter employees have been bracing for job cuts. The Journal previously reported that the company was drafting plans for broad layoffs, with one investor saying up to 50% of staff could be cut and that employees would be evaluated to determine the scope of the firings.
Signs of pushback against Twitter’s actions emerged in the wake of the apparent dismissals. In a federal lawsuit dated Thursday, a handful of Twitter employees accused the company of violating federal and California law in failing to provide enough warning of a mass layoff.
The lawsuit, filed in California federal court by five former employees of Twitter who said they were terminated this week, said the company’s layoffs violated the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act and its California equivalent, which require giving 60 days of advance written warning of dismissing a large number of employees of a company at once. The lawsuit asked the court to issue an order blocking Twitter from its alleged violations of the acts. Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
In April, as Mr. Musk was moving to buy Twitter, entrepreneur
a close ally, suggested cutting the number of Twitter employees to roughly 3,000, according to messages between the two, which were released as part of litigation around the transaction.
A staff of 3,000 would represent the lowest level since 2013, the year Twitter went public, when the platform had about 2,700 employees and its revenue was roughly 13% of its level last year.
Twitter’s employee numbers began climbing in 2019, after ranging between approximately 3,000 and 4,000 for several years. Twitter has said that the increase in recent years was driven by investments in engineering, product, design and research.
Even before officially taking control at Twitter, Mr. Musk had indicated that he was concerned about the company’s expenses. Twitter has posted a loss in eight of its past 10 fiscal years, according to FactSet.
Mr. Musk moved quickly to make personnel changes at the top of the company. Last week, on the same day he closed the deal, he fired Twitter Chief Executive
and three other top executives. Mr. Musk fired the executives for cause and is saying he isn’t required to pay them multimillion-dollar severance packages, the Journal reported. Other executives have departed since.
Mr. Musk has leveraged other parts of his business empire to try to put his imprint on Twitter. He brought in some
engineers to begin working on reshaping the social-media platform, the Journal reported. Also added to an internal company directory were some people who appeared to work for the Boring Co., a tunneling business Mr. Musk founded.
Broadly, the social-media industry is struggling with weaker revenue from digital advertisers. Such advertising has slowed due to several factors, including rising inflation, the war in Ukraine, and
privacy changes that have made it harder to track the performance of ads. Twitter rival Snap Inc. this year said it was letting 20% of staff go.
parent Meta Platforms Inc. also has indicated it was trimming ranks.
Tech companies beyond social media also have embarked on belt tightening that is leading to job losses and hiring freezes. On Thursday, ride-hailing company
and payments company Stripe Inc. announced major layoffs, and
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