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caption: A receptionist works Oct. 26 in the lobby of the building that houses the Twitter office in New York.
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A receptionist works Oct. 26 in the lobby of the building that houses the Twitter office in New York.
Credit: AP

Twitter layoffs begin, sparking a lawsuit and backlash

Long-dreaded layoffs are finally happening at Twitter, which has been owned by billionaire Elon Musk for only a week. They have sparked a lawsuit from employees and a call for advertisers to boycott.

Jessica González, CEO of Free Press, which is part of the #StopToxicTwitter coalition, said she and leaders of more than 40 other groups met with Musk earlier this week.

"He promised to retain and enforce the election-integrity measures that were on Twitter's books before his takeover. With today's mass layoffs, it is clear that his actions betray his words," González said.

She said Musk was taking apart Twitter's investment in fact checking, moderators and policy, which could allow more dangerous disinformation to spread, especially so close to Election Day.

"Twitter was already a hellscape before Musk took over. His actions in the past week will only make it worse," González said.

Several major advertisers have suspended advertising on Twitter since Musk took over, including General Motors and Pfizer. Nearly all of Twitter's revenue comes from ads.

Employees sue Musk over lack of notice for firings

A handful of employees moved quickly to file a class action lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of Twitter workers.

The case alleges that Twitter is letting go of staff without adequate notice, in violation of California and federal employment law. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification act, or WARN, requires at least a 60-day notice before conducting mass layoffs.

The company wouldn't comment on the exact number of staff let go and which departments lost the most, but an internal company email told employees to stay home Friday and wait for an email about the future of their jobs.

Employees posted about getting laid off on Twitter under the hashtag #LoveWhereYouWorked.

They expressed gratitude to their teams and bosses, grieved for the company culture they enjoyed, and worried about colleagues who might lose health insurance or work visas.

Other users chimed in, calling Twitter employees "government stooges" and criticizing content moderation and policy decisions under the company's previous leadership.

Musk has long complained about the size of Twitter's staff, which was about 7,500. The company had ballooned in recent years, even as it struggled financially.

Musk fired many of Twitter's top executives last week, including its CEO, chief financial officer and top lawyers. He also dissolved its board. [Copyright 2022 NPR]