Twitter temporarily closes offices as Elon Musk begins layoffs, including Canadian staff

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Twitter Inc. temporarily closed its offices and cut workers access to internal systems on Friday after telling employees they would be informed by email later in the day about whether they were being laid off.

The move follows a week of uncertainty about the company’s future under new owner Elon Musk.

The social media company said in an email to staff it would tell them by 9 a.m. Pacific time on Friday about staff cuts.

“In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday,” said the email sent on Thursday, seen by Reuters.

Canadian staff hit amid global layoffs

The Canadian Press reported on Friday that Paul Burns, managing director of the company’s Canadian operations, and Michele Austin, Twitter’s director of public policy for the U.S. and Canada, had announced their departures from the San Francisco-based tech giant on social media Friday.

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“It’s been a wild last 4.5 years,” said Burns on Twitter.

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“To the people, friends, partners and tweeps that made this place so special, thank you for all the adventures. Love you all so much.”

Burns joined the company in 2018, taking on the business’s top job in Canada and in recent years oversaw the creation of its first Canadian engineering hub.

Austin has been with Twitter just as long and served in a high-profile role that saw her representing the company before government committees and helping shape election policies.

Austin was “heartbroken” to announce her layoff.

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“It’s been the best, craziest, most rewarding five-year ride of my career,” she wrote on LinkedIn.

“I loved every single minute of it.”

What's behind the layoffs?

Musk, the world’s richest person, is looking to cut around 3,700 Twitter staff, or about half the workforce, as he seeks to slash costs and impose a demanding new work ethic, according to internal plans reviewed by Reuters this week.

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The company’s content moderation team is expected to be impacted, according to tweets by Twitter staff.

Musk has promised to restore free speech while preventing Twitter from descending into a “hellscape.” However, his reassurances have failed to prevent major advertisers from threatening to withdraw from the platform.

Volkswagen has recommended its brands to pause paid advertising on Twitter until further notice in the wake of Musk’s takeover, it said on Friday. Its comments echoed similar remarks from other firms, including General Motors and General Mills.

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Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Access to systems cut

Twitter’s ‘Curation’ team, which is responsible for “highlighting and contextualizing the best events and stories that unfold on Twitter,” has been axed, employees said on the platform. The company’s communications team in India has also been laid off, according to a Twitter executive in Asia.

Some staff reported losing access to internal systems and being unable to message goodbyes to colleagues.

“Looks like I’m unemployed y’all. Just got remotely logged out of my work laptop and removed from Slack,” tweeted a user with the account @SBkcrn, whose profile is described as former senior community manager at Twitter.

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Twitter employees vented their frustrations about the layoffs on the social network, using the hashtag #OneTeam.

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User Rachel Bonn tweeted: “Last Thursday in the SF (San Francisco) office, really the last day Twitter was Twitter. 8 months pregnant and have a 9 month old. Just got cut off from laptop access.”

Responding to the #OneTeam thread, Twitter’s Head of Safety & Integrity Yoel Roth, said: “Tweeps: My DMs (direct message routes) are always open to you. Tell me how I can help.”

Roth was the most senior executive to message publicly with a tweet of support for staff who are losing their jobs. He also appeared to still have his job. Last week, Musk endorsed Roth, citing his “high integrity” after he was called out over tweets critical of former U.S. President Donald Trump years earlier.

Roth did not respond to a request for comment.

Twitter said in the email that its offices would be temporarily closed and all badge access suspended in order “to help ensure the safety of each employee as well as Twitter systems and customer data.”

The company’s office in Piccadilly Circus, London, appeared deserted on Friday, with no employees in sight.

Inside, any evidence the social media giant had once occupied the building had been erased. Security staff said there were ongoing refurbishments, refusing to comment further.

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The company said employees who were not affected by the layoffs would be notified via their work email addresses. Staff who had been laid off would be notified with next steps to their personal email addresses, the memo said.

A member of security staff at Twitter’s Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) headquarters in Dublin told reporters that nobody was coming into the office on Friday and employees had been told to stay home.

Another member of security staff locked the revolving doors at the front of the building where around 500 members of staff worked before the layoffs began.

Class action lawsuit filed

A class action lawsuit was filed on Thursday against Twitter by its employees, who argued the company was conducting mass layoffs without providing the required 60-day advance notice, in violation of federal and California law.

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The lawsuit also asked the San Francisco federal court to issue an order to restrict Twitter from soliciting employees being laid off to sign documents without informing them of the pendency of the case.

Musk has directed Twitter’s teams to find up to $1 billion in annual infrastructure cost savings, according to two sources familiar with the matter and an internal Slack message reviewed by Reuters.

He has already cleared out the company’s senior ranks, firing its chief executive and top finance and legal executives. Others, including those sitting atop the company’s advertising, marketing and human resources divisions, have departed throughout the past week.

Musk’s first week as Twitter’s owner has been marked by chaos and uncertainty. Two company-wide meetings were scheduled, only to be canceled hours later. Employees told Reuters they were left to piece together information through media reports, private messaging groups and anonymous forums.

The layoffs, which were long expected, have chilled Twitter’s famously open corporate culture that has been lauded by many of its employees.

“If you are in an office or on your way to an office, please return home,” Twitter said in the email on Thursday.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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