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Twitter Temporarily Closes Its Offices After Announcing Layoffs Through Mails

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Twitter temporarily closed its offices on Friday after telling employees they would be informed by email later in the day about whether they are 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 9am Pacific time on Friday (9.30pm IST) 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.

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 a target of the cuts, tweets from Twitter employees suggested on Friday. Musk has promised to restore free speech while preventing it from descending into a “hellscape”.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

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.”

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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 US President Donald Trump years earlier.

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

Some employees tweeted their access to the company’s IT system had been blocked and feared that suggested they had been laid off.

“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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Looks like I’m unemployed y’all. Just got remotely logged out of my work laptop and removed from Slack. #OneTeam forever. Loved you all so much.

So sad it had to end this way 💔

— Simon Balmain  (@SBkcrn) November 4, 2022

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.

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 (nearly Rs. 8,200 crore) in annual infrastructure cost savings, according to two sources familiar with the matter and an internal Slack message reviewed by Reuters.

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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.

Shortly after the email landed in employee in boxes, hundreds of people flooded the company’s Slack channels to say goodbye, two employees told Reuters. Someone invited Musk to join the channel, the sources said.

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© Thomson Reuters 2022



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Mark Zuckerberg Calls Apple’s App Store Moderation Rules a ‘Conflict of Interest’

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Meta Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said that Apple’s App Store presents a conflict of interest, adding his voice to a flurry of criticism of the iPhone maker’s software policies. “It is problematic for one company to be able to control what app experiences end up on a device,” Zuckerberg said Wednesday in an interview at the New York Times DealBook conference. The “vast majority of profits in mobile ecosystem go toward Apple,” he added.

App Store policies and fees implemented by Apple, and to a lesser extent Google parent Alphabet, have long been a point of contention for technology companies looking to reach broad mobile audiences. Billionaire Elon Musk added to the chorus after his acquisition of Twitter, sending a flurry of tweets this week denouncing Apple’s fees and restrictions on what apps can be sold.

Zuckerberg echoed some of Musk’s points. He called Apple’s content moderation rules for apps a “conflict of interest” since they are often pointed at rivals. It makes Apple “not just a governor looking out for people’s interests.” Revenue at Meta, which owns social networks Facebook and Instagram, has taken a hit since Apple tightened its privacy policies to restrict how users can be tracked and targeted with advertising.

Though Zuckerberg seemed to back up his objection to Apple’s policies, Musk on Wednesday walked back some of his criticism of the iPhone maker, saying he met with CEO Tim Cook at the company’s headquarters and had a “good conversation” that resolved a “misunderstanding” about Twitter’s place in the App Store.

As for Musk’s approach to running Twitter, Zuckerberg hedged his comments — he said he guesses that some approaches will work and others won’t. “I think it’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out,” he said.

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On whether Meta would allow former US President Donald Trump back onto Facebook, Zuckerberg didn’t answer, but pointed to prior guidance the company has gotten from its external Oversight Board, weighing in on difficult content decisions. Meta is expected to make a decision in January.

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Wall Street has become increasingly bearish on Meta’s investment in its money-losing virtual reality business amid slowing ad revenue. Earlier this month, Zuckerberg said the company would slash more than 11,000 jobs, and took personal responsibility for decisions that led to the need to cut costs. In April, Meta reported its first-ever quarterly revenue drop.

The interview Wednesday began with a recorded conversation between Zuckerberg and the moderator as avatars in the immersive digital world the company calls the metaverse. Still, Zuckerberg said the idea that Meta is wholly focused on the metaverse is “basically wrong.” Messaging program WhatsApp will be his next major monetization target, he said, as that platform is “largely untapped.”

He cited progress in Reels, the company’s short video feature, saying some estimates show it has half the traffic of viral video-sharing app TikTok outside of China.

Zuckerberg also raised the issue of TikTok’s ownership by Beijing-based ByteDance, adding that there are “real questions” about the influence of China’s government on TikTok. “In a lot of countries, all data goes to the government,” the CEO said.

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© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.


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Twitter Faces Ban Over Content Moderation, EU Chief Warns Elon Musk: Report

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The European Union has threatened Elon Musk’s Twitter with a ban unless the billionaire abides by its strict rules on content moderation, setting up a regulatory battle over the future of the social media platform, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

EU industry chief Thierry Breton made the threat during a video meeting with Musk on Wednesday, the FT reported, citing people with knowledge of the conversation.

Breton told Musk he must adhere to a checklist of rules, including ditching an “arbitrary” approach to reinstating banned users and agreeing to an “extensive independent audit” of the platform by next year, according to the report.

Twitter and the EU did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Breton had previously urged Musk to comply with landmark EU rules against online hate speech and disinformation. The European Commission’s justice chief Didier Reynders had also voiced similar comments.

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Reuters reported in October that Elon Musk had assured the European Commission that Twitter will continue to abide by tough European rules on illegal online content policing now the social network has passed under his ownership.

The assurances from Musk appeared to suggest a pragmatic attitude from the CEO of electric car maker Tesla, who has previously expressed his desire to see Twitter have fewer limits on content that can be posted.

In May this year, EU industry chief Thierry Breton met Musk in Texas and the two signalled agreement on EU digital media regulation ahead of Musk’s purchase of Twitter.

The previous meeting came weeks after the world’s richest man clinched a deal to buy the social media company for $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,40,270 crore) in cash.

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In a video with the two men posted on Twitter by Breton, the EU official tells Musk that he explained the Digital Services Act to Musk. “It fits pretty well with what you think we should do,” Breton tells Musk in a tweet that included the hashtag #DSA.

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“I think it’s exactly aligned with my thinking,” Musk responds.

The two did not go into detail on the new law, which levies hefty fines on companies if they do not control illegal content. The rules ban advertising aimed at children or based on religion, gender, race, and political opinions, for example.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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Twitter Not Safer Under Elon Musk Leadership, Says Former Head of Trust and Safety

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Twitter’s former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth on Tuesday said the social media company was not safer under new owner Elon Musk, warning in his first interview since resigning this month that the company no longer had enough staff for safety work.

Roth had tweeted after Musk’s takeover that by some measures, Twitter safety had improved under the billionaire’s ownership.

Asked in an interview at the Knight Foundation conference on Tuesday whether he still felt that way, Roth said: “No.”

Roth was a Twitter veteran who helped steer the social media platform through several watershed decisions, including the move to permanently suspend its most famous user, former US President Donald Trump, last year.

His departure further rattled advertisers, many of whom backed away from Twitter after Musk laid off half of the staff, including many involved with content moderation.

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Before Musk assumed the helm at Twitter, about 2,200 people globally were focused on content moderation work, said Roth. He said he did not know the number after the acquisition because the corporate directory had been turned off.

Twitter under Musk began to stray from its adherence to written and publicly available policies toward content decisions made unilaterally by Musk, which Roth cited as a reason for his resignation.

“One of my limits was if Twitter starts being ruled by dictatorial edict rather than by policy … there’s no longer a need for me in my role, doing what I do,” he said.

The revamp of the Twitter Blue premium subscription, which would allow users to pay for a verified checkmark on their account, launched despite warnings and advice from the trust and safety team, Roth said.

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The launch was quickly beset by spammers impersonating major public companies such as Eli Lilly, Nestle and Lockheed Martin.

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Roth also said Tuesday that Twitter erred in restricting the dissemination of a New York Post article that made claims about then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son shortly before the 2020 presidential election.

But he defended Twitter’s decision to permanently suspend Trump for risk of further incitement of violence after the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

“We saw the clearest possible example of what it looked like for things to move from online to off,” Roth said. “We saw people dead in the Capitol.”

Musk tweeted on November 19 that Trump’s account would be reinstated after a slim majority voted in favour of the move in a surprise Twitter poll.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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