The decade's most triggering comedy
The world’s richest man, who acquired the firm at the end of last year in a professed attempt to bolster free expression on the platform, started his tenure by introducing layoffs for many of the 8,000 employees who remained at Twitter. There are currently some 1,500 workers still with the firm, Musk confirmed to BBC technology journalist James Clayton; the entrepreneur described the experience of introducing layoffs as “not fun at all” and “painful.”
“The company’s going to go bankrupt if we do not cut costs immediately,” he commented in the interview. “This is not a caring-uncaring situation. If the whole ship sinks then nobody’s got a job. This hasn’t been some sort of party. It’s been really quite a stressful situation.”
Musk does not regret dismissing the approximately 6,500 employees even though he affirmed the situation was “quite painful.” The layoffs were meant to reorient Twitter toward a greater focus on engineering rather than product management and other non-technical roles.
“In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday,” one email from the company to all employees said last year. “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.”
Another memo to employees warned that those who decided to remain with the company could expect to work “extremely hardcore” hours at “high intensity.”
Other prominent technology firms have started to reduce headcount as the elevated consumer demand which followed the lockdown-induced recession recently began to slow. More than 131,000 workers have been dismissed from technology firms so far in 2023, according to a report from Crunchbase, even after companies nixed about 93,000 positions last year.
Musk is also a prominent critic of remote work arrangements and has largely discontinued the practice within the companies he leads, which also include electric automaker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX. The multibillionaire informed employees at Tesla that virtual work is “no longer” acceptable and commented on social media that those who disagree with the new policy “should pretend to work somewhere else.” During a town hall meeting with Twitter employees months before the acquisition was finalized, Musk was asked about remote work, prompting him to assert that staying “on location physically” is far superior to other arrangements.
The last-minute BBC interview came as Musk faces backlash from advertisers who claim that Twitter’s new policies surrounding free expression enable an increased amount of so-called hate speech. Large corporations, including Pfizer, Volkswagen, Mondelez International, and General Mills paused their Twitter advertisements after Musk assumed control of the company.
Clayton confronted Musk during the interview over a supposed rise in hateful conduct on Twitter. Musk asked him to provide a single example of hate speech Clayton has seen on the platform; the reporter was unable to name a specific instance despite his accusation that he has witnessed an increase in such posts. “So then at some point, you must have seen hateful content,” Musk pressed. “I’m asking for one example and you can’t give a single one.”