What’s going on at Twitter? The word on the little blue bird’s wire is that the platform may be sinking. This wouldn’t come as such a shock if you’ve been reading the media coverage surrounding Elon Musk and his revolutionary moves since taking over Twitter.
The article that follows will explore the current Twitter landscape, as well as the controversies that the platform has been subjected to since the takeover. By examining all of these details, we hope to shed some much-needed light on whether Twitter is preparing to tweet its last tweet or whether the little blue bird is poised to live to tweet another day.
The voluntary culling
An estimated Twitter employee count ranging in the hundreds are quitting their employment after Elon Musk’s latest communique. Musk reportedly circulated an ultimatum last week giving workers a choice to ‘stay if they’re hardcore,’ or leave with a three-month severance package. The ultimatum follows Musk’s earlier promise of the internal Twitter landscape becoming more structured toward ‘long hours at high intensity.’
This comes after the billionaire fired 50% of the Twitter workforce. As we reported previously, even top management wasn’t exempt from the culling as Musk drastically changed the entire upper echelon of the company.
We don’t know, at this stage, how many employees have decided to leave Twitter, but the ultimatum seems to have ruffled feathers and exposed the reluctance that workers must have to continue working for a company that fired half its staff complement. The Twitter culture is changing drastically, but, as Musk puts it, ‘The best people are staying, so I’m not super worried.’
This kind of situation gives the public a rare chance to see inside the walls of a company. In this case, we’ve even had a few anonymous employees reveal the results of various informal employee polls. These polls give us a better idea of the prevailing mindset at Twitter HQ.
The first source is the blue bird’s official internal chat function. Here, over 500 employees posted heartfelt messages of farewell as they prepared to sever ties with the company. Another source brought forward information from Blind, a workplace app that requires employees to use their work email addresses to be verified. Here, the anonymous source claims that out of the total 180 odd respondents, 42% selected ‘Taking exit option, I’m Free!’ as their response to the ultimatum. This is already a large portion of Twitter’s approximately 3,000 workers. Staying on Blind, only 7% of the respondents asserted that they were hardcore enough to stay confident. A further 25% of the total respondents decided to stay reluctantly.
A search of posts on Twitter itself revealed that approximately 110 employees stretched across 4 continents had made public declarations that they’d be leaving Twitter’s employment. However, it’s pertinent to note that people are likely to post anything to gain social acceptance, and it’s proven impossible to verify that each of the individuals worked for Twitter and further that they’d resigned. 15 Twitter employees posted that they’d be staying on. Many of these are in ad sales, but we don’t have enough information as yet to determine whether certain positions were more or less likely to resign.
Another unofficial poll was held on the popular chat app Signal. 50 Twitter employees allegedly took part, and according to an anonymous source with access to the group, almost 40 staffers had made their intentions to leave quite clear.
Slack wasn’t exempt from Twitter shenanigans either, where approximately 360 employees joined a channel entitled ‘voluntary-layoff.’ We don’t know what the resolution of the Slack group was, but given the title, we’d be justified in assuming that the majority of the 360 employees that joined the group had intended to leave. However, it’s easy to see how some people would have joined simply for the drama or to see who was leaving.
This major self-culling that Twitter’s employees have undertaken was prompted by an internal email circulated last week wednesday, where Elon Musk clearly outlined his intentions. ‘Going forward, to build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0 and succeed in an increasingly competitive world, we will need to be extremely hardcore.’
Musk also insinuated that should employees not have clicked one of the options below the email, their silence would be taken as a confirmation that they would prefer to leave and take the severance deal.
We don’t know how many employees have since left Twitter, but we’d estimate that no less than 1000 employees have walked out on the company. With that in mind, we estimate that Twitter’s workforce has decreased from around 7,500 at the beginning of 2022, to only about 2,000 toward its conclusion.
It hasn’t been all negative press though. Some Twitter employees retain a positive outlook of the company and wish its remaining employees nothing but prosperity. One such employee is Jess DeBolt Berman. In recent tweet, Berman said that ‘Deciding to join @Twitter 7.5 years ago was one of the easiest decisions ever made. Deciding to leave today was 100% the opposite. I will miss the people, the fun, the love, warmth and kindness within and surrounding this company. Thank you, Tweeps. #LoveWhereYouWorked.’
In a humorous turn, some potentially disgruntled former employees have taken to updating their bio’s on Twitter to poke fun at Musk’s ideal of a more ‘hardcore’ environment. Engineers previously employed by the blue bird have described themselves as ‘softcore engineers’ and ‘ex-hardcore engineers.’
Musk responded to the shift in Twitter’s atmosphere this last week with ‘ How do you make a small fortune in social media?” he tweeted. “Start out with a large one.’
Was the Twitter cull legal?
Some may be poking fun at the recent exodus, but others have taken to the internet to question the legality of Musk’s recent actions. In particular, it seems that Musk has fired a rather significant portion of Twitter’s work complement simply for insulting him either in public or within the confines of the company’s Slack channels.
Attorneys say that they have been inundated with claims from disgruntled former employees who got the chop. However, as one attorney points out, it depends on what exactly Musk fired each person for saying. California-based member of the Clark Hill law firm, Rafael Nendel-Flores, says that whether or not Musk violated the WARN Act depends on the transgressions of the employees.
‘There are multiple statutes that protect your employees if they’re engaging in what’s called protected activity. That basically prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for complaining about issues that are tethered to public policy, i.e. statutes or regulations. So, the line of demarcation is, if someone just says, ‘I don’t like Elon Musk, and I think it sucks that he took over my company,’ that’s probably not protected. But if someone says, ‘I think what Elon Musk is doing is unlawful or discriminatory’ and then Elon and Twitter fire those people, then that creates potential issues.’
The Twitter drama continues
I think it’s safe to say that we are years out from Twitter being seen as stable again. The mere fact that Musk was in negotiations to buy Twitter a few months ago sent the entire top structure of the company careening toward the ‘poison pill’ tactic. And, even now, as the dust settles on Musk’s takeover, people are still up in arms about every move the billionaire makes. It’s difficult to comprehend and discuss what the ethics of Musk’s actions are, but we need to remember the reason for all of this. This entire Twitter shakeup started because Musk wanted to introduce something to the Twitter landscape that it hadn’t seen in years – true free speech.
Company shakeups are never silent or peaceful; there is always some level of collateral. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that with a company like Twitter, there’s still a lot of collateral to come, but it’ll be interesting to see how Twitter’s posts and overall activity change as Musk institutes more and more alterations to how the blue bird operates. Musk believes that his takeover is the start of Twitter 2.0, however, other people believe this is the start of something much darker. It might be time to say goodbye to social media.