Elon Musk is wasting no time making extremely deep cuts to Twitter, laying off many teams doing essential work at the company in the process. News of the layoffs swept across the platform on Friday, showing Twitter’s billionaire owner painting in broad strokes when it comes to halving the team.
On the same day Musk complained about alleged activists impacting Twitter’s ad revenue, he cut departments outright — actions that are sure to make advertisers all the more nervous about Musk’s ability to run a ship with a reduced crew. As he’s only owned the company for a week, it’s impossible to imagine such massive layoffs won’t lead to dysfunctional Twitter content moderation policies that will prove crucial for the US election. Tuesday’s midterm to the product teams that keep the platform running.
Former Twitter employees affected by the layoffs describe a chaotic situation with little official communication beyond suddenly receiving a termination letter or having their access to internal tools like Slack or databases suddenly revoked. In the information void created by Musk’s disorganized and sudden approach to layoffs, some employees are unsure whether their colleagues are still employed or whether their teams continue to exist.
The cuts appear to be as wide as they are deep, affecting everything from Twitter’s trust and safety teams that handle content moderation to its marketing department. Here are some of the teams eliminated or hard hit by the layoffs, and what Twitter’s new incarnation will lose in the process.
Former Twitter human rights lawyer Shannon Raj Singh announced that the company’s human rights team was terminated on Friday. The team worked to protect users facing human rights abuses around the world, including activists, journalists and people affected by conflicts like the war in Ukraine.
Twitter’s former accessibility manager confirmed that the company removed the Accessibility Experience Team, which made the product better for people with disabilities. The team seems to still have a lot of work in progress before disbanding.
It’s not yet clear which parts of Twitter’s communications team have been cut outright, but the cuts are deep enough that many of the company’s prominent communications employees, including numerous contacts TechCrunch spoke with at over the years have been affected. Musk signaled his distaste for internal communications immediately after taking over the company, giving Twitter employees little information about the changes, so it’s no surprise that the internal communications team was also affected, including the internal communications manager.
Machine Learning Ethics, Transparency, and Accountability
Musk disbanded a team known internally as META, which was well-respected for its exploratory work in ethical AI and algorithmic transparency. Rumman Chowdhury, the team manager, was eliminatedas well as team engineers and other members.
Some of the layoffs make sense, given the things Musk apparently has little regard for (human rights and accessibility, alarming!), but Twitter’s new owner has apparently also made cuts in teams that seemed poised to help him extract more value from the business. The conservation team curated the moments tab, scheduled the trending topics section, provided context on those topics, and also ran live events — most of the things Twitter does best. The team also worked to combat misinformation on the platform — a serious and consequential concern that Musk has already escalated in less than seven days of work.
Politico reports that half of the company’s public policy team has been fired, including Michele Austin, the former director of public policy and elections in Canada and the United States who actively worked on the elections of mid-term in the United States. These cuts would also have included members of the Twitter team who work to verify the accounts of political figures.
This story develops…