Twitter has temporarily closed its offices over fears that disgruntled staff could sabotage the company, sparking fresh concerns about the website’s ability to stay online.
It comes after new boss Elon Musk issued employees with an ultimatum which asked them to either sign up for longer, more intense working hours - or face being let go. Mr Musk wanted to build a new, “hardcore” Twitter, but has apparently been surprised by the number of workers who rejected his proposal and chose to accept the offer of three months’ severance pay instead.
The social media giant has closed its office buildings until Monday (21 November) as a result. In an email sent to employees, which has been published by the BBC, no reason was given for the sudden closure - but according to reports in the US, there is concern that the company will face blacklash from staff.
Workers had until yesterday evening (17 November) to click on a link which confirmed they wanted to “be part of the new Twitter”, or they would be considered to have quit. According to Insider’s Kali Hays, “the entirety of Twitter’s payroll department has resigned/not elected to sign up for Elon’s Twitter 2.0.”
Some workers have taken to social media to share the moment their careers at the company came to an end. A group of employees posted a video of the countdown to when they would be “fired”, with one tearfully sharing he had been at the company for nine years and nine months.
Perhaps becoming more aware of the atmosphere amongst his company, Mr Musk softened his tone in an email to employees sent out yesterday (17 November), writing: “All that is required for approval is that your manager takes responsibility for ensuring you are making an excellent contribution”.
He has also backpedalled on his earlier insistence that everyone must work from the office, after his initial rejection of remote work alienated employees who had survived the first round of layoffs. The billionaire maintained however that workers will be expected to have “in-person meetings with your colleagues on a reasonable cadence, ideally weekly, but not less than once per month”.
According to the New York Times, Mr Musk, who became Twitter’s chief executive after buying the firm last month in a $44 billion (£37 billion) deal, also frantically tried to retain top talent in hastily arranged Zooms. Ryan Mac, Mike Isaac and David McCabe wrote: “As the 5 p.m. deadline passed, some who had been called in began hanging up, seemingly having decided to leave, even as Mr. Musk continued speaking.”
Despite these reports, Mr Musk maintained on social media that he is not worried about resignations as “the best people are staying”. He also tweeted that Twitter “just hit another all time high in usage”, before proceeding to post a couple of bizarre tweets, including a skull and crossbones emoji.
Since taking over Twitter less than three weeks ago, Mr Musk has cut half of the company’s full-time staff of 7,500. The firm also reportedly used to employ thousands of contract workers responsible for content moderation and other crucial efforts, the majority of whom are understood to have been laid off.
As a result, concerns have been raised that the platform could struggle to stay online, since any issues that arise could take longer to fix without key engineers in place to handle such problems. On this point, a former employee told the Washington Post: “I know of six critical systems (like ‘serving tweets’ levels of critical) which no longer have any engineers. There is no longer even a skeleton crew manning the system. It will continue to coast until it runs into something, and then it will stop.”
#RIPTwitter and #GoodbyeTwitter have been trending on the platform as users also consider leaving the site. Others meanwhile have begun pointing followers to their accounts on other platforms.
Some of the backlash came after Mr Musk, the world’s richest person, announced that Twitter will charge users $8 a month for blue check marks to verify the authenticity of a user’s account.