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Elon Musk Says Laid Off Employees Were Offered 3 Months of Severance

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Twitter laid off half its workforce on Friday but said cuts were smaller in the team responsible for preventing the spread of misinformation, as advertisers pulled spending amid concerns about content moderation.

Tweets by staff of the social media company said teams responsible for communications, content curation, human rights, and machine learning ethics were among those axed, as were some product and engineering teams.

The move caps a week of chaos and uncertainty about the company’s future under new owner Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, who tweeted on Friday that the service was experiencing a “massive drop in revenue” from the advertiser retreat.

Musk blamed the losses on a coalition of civil rights groups that has been pressing Twitter’s top advertisers to take action if he did not protect content moderation – concerns heightened ahead of potential pivotal congressional elections on Tuesday.

Regarding Twitter’s reduction in force, unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day.

Everyone exited was offered 3 months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required.

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— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 4, 2022

After the layoffs, the groups said they were escalating their pressure and demanding brands pull their Twitter ads globally.

“Unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day,” Musk tweeted of the layoffs, adding that everyone affected was offered three months of severance pay.

The company was silent about the depth of the cuts until late in the day, when head of safety and integrity Yoel Roth tweeted confirmation of internal plans, seen by Reuters earlier in the week, projecting the layoffs would affect about 3,700 people, or 50 percent of the staff.

Among those let go were 784 employees from the company’s San Francisco headquarters and 199 in San Jose and Los Angeles, according to filings to California’s employment authority.

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Roth said the reductions hit about 15 percent of his team, which is responsible for preventing the spread of misinformation and other harmful content, and that the company’s “core moderation capabilities” remained in place.

Musk endorsed the safety executive last week, citing his “high integrity” after Roth was called out over tweets critical of former President Donald Trump years earlier.

Musk has promised to restore free speech while preventing Twitter from descending into a “hellscape.”

President Joe Biden said on Friday that Musk had purchased a social media platform in Twitter that spews lies across the world.

“And now what are we all worried about: Elon Musk goes out and buys an outfit that sends – that spews lies all across the world… There’s no editors anymore in America. There’s no editors. How do we expect kids to be able to understand what is at stake?”

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Major advertisers have expressed apprehension about Musk’s takeover for months.

Brands including General Motors and General Mills have said they stopped advertising on Twitter while awaiting information about the new direction of the platform.

Musk tweeted that his team had made no changes to content moderation and had done “everything we could” to appease the groups. Speaking at an investors conference in New York on Friday, Musk called the activist pressure “an attack on the First Amendment.”

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Access to systems cut

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The email notifying staff about layoffs was the first communication Twitter workers received from the company’s leadership after Musk took over last week. It was signed only by “Twitter,” without naming Musk or any other executives.

Dozens of staffers tweeted they had lost access to work email and Slack channels overnight before receiving an official layoff notice on Friday morning, prompting an outpouring of laments by current and former employees on the platform they had built.

They shared blue hearts and salute emojis expressing support for one another, using the hashtags #OneTeam and #LoveWhereYouWorked, a past-tense version of the slogan employees had used for years to celebrate the company’s work culture.

Twitter’s curation team, which was responsible for “highlighting and contextualizing the best events and stories that unfold on Twitter,” had been axed, employees wrote.

Shannon Raj Singh, an attorney who was Twitter’s acting head of human rights, tweeted that the entire human rights team at the company had been sacked.

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Another team that focused on research into how Twitter employed machine learning and algorithms, an issue that was a priority for Musk, was also eliminated, according to a tweet from a former senior manager at Twitter.

Senior executives including vice president of engineering Arnaud Weber said their goodbyes on Twitter on Friday: “Twitter still has a lot of unlocked potential but I’m proud of what we accomplished.”

Employees of Twitter Blue, the premium subscription service that Musk is bolstering, were also let go. An employee with the handle “SillyRobin” who had indicated they were laid off, quote-tweeted a previous Musk tweet saying Twitter Blue would include “paywall bypass” for certain publishers.

“Just to be clear, he fired the team working on this,” the employee said.

Doos locked

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

Offices in London and Dublin appeared deserted on Friday, with no employees in sight. At the London office, any evidence Twitter had once occupied the building was erased.

A receptionist at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters said a few people had trickled in and were working on the floors above despite the notice to stay away.

A class action was filed on Thursday against Twitter by several 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 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.

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© Thomson Reuters 2022


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Elon Musk Hints at Plans to Increase Character Limit for Tweets in Response to Twitter User

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Twitter could expand its character limit from 280, according to a tweet by new owner Elon Musk. The world’s richest man and Twitter’s new CEO responded to a user on the microblogging platform requesting the higher character limit, stating that it was part of the company’s plan. Twitter is also working on adding encrypted direct messages (DMs), and payment services, according a set of slides recently shared by Musk on Twitter. However, it is currently unclear whether the increased character limit will be the same as the longform tweet feature teased by the company’s CEO.

On Monday, Musk responded to a Twitter user asking him to expand the 280-character limit for on tweets on Twitter to 1,000 characters. Musk responded, stating :It’s on the todo list.”

Twitter, which is referred to as a “microblogging service”, originally had a 140-character limit for tweets, which was expanded to 280 characters in 2017. At the time, the company’s blog stated that “many people Tweeted the full 280 limit because it was new and novel, but soon after behaviour normalised…We saw when people needed to use more than 140 characters, they Tweeted more easily and more often.”

The platform is one of the few services that limits users’ posts to a few hundred characters. Rival Facebook allow users to upload posts with thousands of characters.

Musk has shown interest in the idea of increasing the character limit on a number of occasions since his takeover of the platform, as per a report by Mashable.

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On November 27, a Twitter user suggested to Musk to increase the platform’s word limit from 280 to 420. “Good idea” Musk wrote in response.

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Prior to that, another user had suggested “get rid of character limits,” to which Musk responded: “Absolutely”.

Musk recently announced another major change for the platform with its multi-coloured verification system. A new three-coloured verification check mark system would replace the previous ‘Twitter Blue’ service which had to be pulled off within days of its release due to rising number of accounts impersonating well-known brands and personalities while carrying the ‘verified’ check. The new Twitter Blue verification service will tentatively be relaunched on December 2, according to Musk.


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WhatsApp ‘Message Yourself’ Feature Rolling Out on Android and iOS: Report

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WhatsApp is rolling out its Message Yourself feature to users globally. The app will now let you send a text to yourself, to store messages and files. Many users around the globe rely on WhatsApp chats to jot down quick notes or reminders, or crucial information. Until now, users would use a workaround to message themselves, or use a second WhatsApp account registered to another phone number, or rely on a chat window of a defunct WhatsApp account to store messages. WhatsApp will now let you do it easily via one of its new in-built features called Message Yourself.

According to a report by TechCrunch, the Meta owned messaging app has begun to roll out the ability to message yourself. The ‘Message Yourself’ feature will be similar to sending a text to another user, except that the message will remain in a separate chat on your phone.

Once the feature is rolled out, users will see a separate chat with their name followed by “(You)”. You will be able to jot down notes, shopping lists, keep reminders, store bookmarks. You will also be able to forward messages from other users, just like you can for other chats.

You can tap on the new chat button from the WhatsApp home screen and select your name. Once you tap on it, you will be able to send texts to yourself. If you are in another app, you can also use the sharing menu to send files, images, and other media to yourself.

WhatsApp says that the Message Yourself feature is now rolling out and should reach most Android and iOS users in the coming weeks, as per the report. Users can download the latest version of the app on Android and iOS to use the Message Yourself feature.

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Recently, the messaging app also introduced a new feature that will let iOS and Android users create polls in personal and group chats to get opinions or answers from their friends and contacts. Users’ responses to a poll’s question are protected via end-to-end encryption, according to the company.

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Facebook Fined EUR 265 Million by Irish Data Privacy Regulator After Investigation Into Data Scraping

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Ireland’s data privacy regulator imposed an EUR 265 million (roughly Rs. 2,250 crore) fine on social media giant Facebook on Monday, bringing the total it has fined parent group Meta to almost EUR 1 billion (roughly Rs. 2,250 crore). The penalty resulted from an investigation, started last year, into the discovery of a collated set of personal data that had been scraped from Facebook between May 2018 and September 2019, and made available online. Facebook was also ordered to make a range of corrective measures.

Meta said it had cooperated fully with the investigation by Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC) and made changes to its systems during the time in question, including removing the ability to scrape its features in this way using phone numbers.

Monday’s fine is the fourth the DPC has levied against one of Meta’s companies. It is Meta’s lead privacy regulator within the European Union, and has 13 more inquiries into the social media group outstanding.

In September the watchdog hit its Instagram subsidiary with a record fine of EUR 405 million (roughly Rs. 3,435 crore), which Meta plans to appeal. Meta added in its statement on Monday that it was reviewing the decision related to the latest fine.

The DPC regulates Apple, Google, Twitter, Tiktok and other technology giants due to the location of their EU headquarters in Ireland. It currently has 40 inquiries open into such firms, including the 13 involving Meta.

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The regulator has the power to impose fines of up to 4 percent of a company’s global revenue under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) “One Stop Shop” regime introduced in 2018.

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The DPC said mitigating factors in Monday’s decision – which had been approved by all other relevant EU regulators – included the actions Facebook had taken.

“We’ll keep going until the behaviour does change,” Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC) Helen Dixon told Irish national broadcaster RTE on Monday.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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