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Twitter Job Cuts: What Are Digital Layoffs and What Do They Mean for Employees and Companies?

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Elon Musk is progressing plans to slim down Twitter since he bought the 396-million-member platform for $44 billion (roughly Rs. (roughly Rs. 3,58,650 crore) on October 27. Musk’s deal has taken Twitter private, dissolved the platform’s board and enhanced his unilateral power as CEO. But mass redundancy announcements made since he took control have been scrutinised globally.

Musk’s plans to restructure Twitter began with laying off top executives, before notifications were emailed to around half of the Twitter global workforce that they were being made redundant or that their jobs were at risk.

In a memo to staff, Musk defended the firings as “an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path” and “unfortunately necessary to ensure the company’s success moving forward”.

The widely reported memo also informed employees that they would find out their fate by email. It said: Given the nature of our distributed workforce and our desire to inform impacted individuals as quickly as possible, communications for this process will take place via email.

But tweets by some employees showed they found out before the email arrived when they could not access their work accounts or other internal systems. And a class action lawsuit filed in the US on November 3 claims Twitter locked employees out of their accounts, with at least one of the five plaintiffs being “terminated without notice or severance pay”, according to news reports.

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Digital layoffs

Dismissing staff in this way seems impersonal, blunt and lacking in compassion.

Certainly in Ireland, the home of Twitter’s European headquarters, the Taoiseach (prime minister of Ireland) has called out Twitter’s actions as “unacceptable” and pointed out that workers should be treated with dignity and respect.

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Unfortunately, Twitter’s approach resembles strategies adopted by a growing number of companies in recent years. Klarna, a Swedish financial technology company sent a prerecorded message to inform employees of 700 layoffs last May, while P and O ferries dismissed 800 staff over Zoom in March.

Mortgage company Better.com made 900 employees redundant by Zoom in 2021, a year after electric scooter company Bird used a Zoom webinar to dismiss more than 400 workers.

Twitter operates globally and employment regulation varies between countries, and even among states in the US. Indeed, the communications sent to Twitter employees differed depending on where they were based.

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In the US, the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide workers with 60 days’ notice for mass sackings.

Alternatively, employers can provide workers with 60 days of redundancy pay. After Twitter employees filed their lawsuit in California on November 3, Musk tweeted the following night that every dismissed employee will be offered three months of severance pay.

Twitter is also expected to provide advance warnings of mass redundancies to California’s Employment Development Department. A representative for the agency told the New York Times that no warning had been given by the evening of November 3.

Under UK and EU law, companies must consult with staff over mass redundancies. This may explain why Twitter employees in the UK and Ireland are reported to have received a slightly differently worded email informing them that their job is “potentially” impacted or “at risk”.

An email sent to UK employees on Friday November 4 said they had until 9 am the following Tuesday to nominate someone to represent them in a formal consultation.

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Twitter has notified employees in Ireland that they should also nominate employee representatives to engage in a formal consultation process.

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Twitter did not respond to requests for comment on this process or about its communications with employees concerning these redundancies.

Reputational risk

With this level of uncertainty, it’s not surprising that some Twitter employees have been joining unions ahead of the redundancies. In the UK, Prospect is representing at least some Twitter employees and says it will support members to defend their livelihoods.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has argued the case highlights the need for workers across industries to have better opportunities and rights to join unions as a form of collective voice.

Similarly, the United Nations, which advocates for “decent work and economic growth”, has even felt compelled to comment following Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.

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The UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Volker Türk, issued an open letter urging Musk to ensure that human rights are integral to the management of Twitter under his leadership, saying: Reports that Twitter’s entire human rights team and all but two of its ethical AI team have been fired this week are not from my perspective an encouraging start.

Civil society groups and alliances were already concerned about the direction Twitter may take following its takeover. Musk has called out “activist groups” for supposedly pressurising advertisers to stop working with Twitter.

Pfizer, General Mills and Volkswagen are some of the companies that have recently paused their advertising on the platform. Others may follow after the redundancy announcements.

Twitter users have also already been moving to alternative social media platforms, and this kind of migration could continue following news of the mass job cuts. One such alternative, Irish microblogging site Mastodon, claims more than 230,000 people have moved to it since Twitter’s takeover deal.

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Worried about digital layoffs?

The Twitter chaos certainly seems to be far from over, with reports indicating that the company is now asking some dismissed employees to return to work.

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Redundancies have risen sharply right across the tech sector in recent months, with firms including Facebook owner Meta and payments company Stripe recently announcing job cuts, although not all have implemented digital layoffs.

If you face redundancy – whether digitally or face to face – it’s important to know your rights. Unions can provide information about this and can also support and represent employees before and after redundancies are announced.

In the UK, you can also contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service for information about your rights, while other countries will have equivalent services such as the Workplace Relations Commission in Ireland.


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Twitter Stops Enforcing COVID-19 Misinformation Policy, Experts Express Concerns Over False Claims

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Twitter will no longer enforce its policy against COVID-19 misinformation, raising concerns among public health experts and social media researchers that the change could have serious consequences if it discourages vaccination and other efforts to combat the still-spreading virus.

Eagle-eyed users spotted the change Monday night, noting that a one-sentence update had been made to Twitter’s online rules: “Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy.”

By Tuesday, some Twitter accounts were testing the new boundaries and celebrating the platform’s hands-off approach, which comes after Twitter was purchased by Elon Musk.

“This policy was used to silence people across the world who questioned the media narrative surrounding the virus and treatment options,” tweeted Dr. Simone Gold, a physician and leading purveyor of COVID-19 misinformation. “A win for free speech and medical freedom!”

Twitter’s decision to no longer remove false claims about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines disappointed public health officials, however, who said it could lead to more false claims about the virus, or the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

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“Bad news,” tweeted epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding, who urged people not to flee Twitter but to keep up the fight against bad information about the virus. “Stay folks — do NOT cede the town square to them!”

While Twitter’s efforts to stop false claims about COVID weren’t perfect, the company’s decision to reverse course is an abdication of its duty to its users, said Paul Russo, a social media researcher and dean of the Katz School of Science and Health at Yeshiva University in New York.

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Russo added that it’s the latest of several recent moves by Twitter that could ultimately scare away some users and even advertisers. Some big names in business have already paused their ads on Twitter over questions about its direction under Musk.

“It is 100% the responsibility of the platform to protect its users from harmful content,” Russo said. “This is absolutely unacceptable.”

The virus, meanwhile, continues to spread. Nationally, new COVID cases averaged nearly 38,800 a day as of Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University — far lower than last winter but a vast undercount because of reduced testing and reporting. About 28,100 people with COVID were hospitalized daily and about 313 died, according to the most recent federal daily averages.

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Cases and deaths were up from two weeks earlier. Yet a fifth of the U.S. population hasn’t been vaccinated, most Americans haven’t gotten the latest boosters, and many have stopped wearing masks.

Musk, who has himself spread COVID misinformation on Twitter, has signalled an interest in rolling back many of the platform’s previous rules meant to combat misinformation.

Last week, Musk said he would grant “amnesty” to account holders who had been kicked off Twitter. He’s also reinstated the accounts for several people who spread COVID misinformation, including that of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose personal account was suspended this year for repeatedly violating Twitter’s COVID rules.

Greene’s most recent tweets include ones questioning the effectiveness of masks and making baseless claims about the safety of COVID vaccines.

Since the pandemic began, platforms like Twitter and Facebook have struggled to respond to a torrent of misinformation about the virus, its origins and the response to it.

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Under the policy enacted in January 2020, Twitter prohibited false claims about COVID-19 that the platform determined could lead to real-world harms. More than 11,000 accounts were suspended for violating the rules, and nearly 100,000 pieces of content were removed from the platform, according to Twitter’s latest numbers.

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Despite its rules prohibiting COVID misinformation, Twitter has struggled with enforcement. Posts making bogus claims about home remedies or vaccines could still be found, and it was difficult on Tuesday to identify exactly how the platform’s rules may have changed.

Messages left with San Francisco-based Twitter seeking more information about its policy on COVID-19 misinformation were not immediately returned Tuesday.

A search for common terms associated with COVID misinformation on Tuesday yielded lots of misleading content, but also automatic links to helpful resources about the virus as well as authoritative sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, said Tuesday that the problem of COVID-19 misinformation is far larger than one platform, and that policies prohibiting COVID misinformation weren’t the best solution anyway.

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Speaking at a Knight Foundation forum Tuesday, Jha said misinformation about the virus spread for a number of reasons, including legitimate uncertainty about a deadly illness. Simply prohibiting certain kinds of content isn’t going to help people find good information, or make them feel more confident about what they’re hearing from their medical providers, he said.

“I think we all have a collective responsibility,” Jha said of combating misinformation about COVID. “The consequences of not getting this right — of spreading that misinformation — is literally tens of thousands of people dying unnecessarily.”


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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.

See also  Elon Musk Said to Inform Co-Investors That He Plans to Close Twitter Deal by Friday

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