Elon Musk wastes no time doing extremely deep incisions at Twitter, spinning off many teams doing core work at the company in the process. News of layoffs swept the platform on Friday, showing that the billionaire owner of Twitter is drawing broad strokes when it comes to cutting the team in half.
On the same day that Musk complained about alleged activists impacting Twitter’s ad revenue, he outright cut some departments — moves that are sure to make advertisers even more fearful of Musk’s ability to steer a ship with skeleton crew. Since he’s only owned the company for a week, it’s impossible to imagine that such sweeping layoffs won’t lead to dysfunction at Twitter, from content moderation policies that are sure to prove crucial to Tuesday’s US midterm elections. to the product teams supporting the platform.
Former Twitter employees affected by the layoffs describe a chaotic situation with little formal communication beyond suddenly receiving a termination letter or seeing access to internal tools like Slack or databases suddenly revoked. In the information vacuum created by Musk’s disorganized and abrupt approach to layoffs, some employees are unsure whether their colleagues are still on the job or whether their teams even exist.
The cuts appear to be as broad as they are deep, affecting everything from Twitter’s trust and safety teams, which handle content moderation, to its marketing department. Here are some of the teams either eliminated outright or hit hard by the layoffs, and what the new incarnation of Twitter will lose in the process.
Former Twitter human rights counsel Shannon Raj Singh shared news that the company’s human rights team had been eliminated on Friday. The team works to protect users facing human rights abuses around the world, including activists, journalists and people affected by conflicts such as the war in Ukraine.
An accessibility experience
Now Twitter’s former head of accessibility has confirmed that the company has cut the accessibility team, which has improved the product for people with disabilities. It seems the team was still working on a lot of stuff before it was disbanded.
It’s not yet clear which parts of Twitter’s communications team have been completely cut, but the cuts are deep enough that many prominent communications staff at the company, including many contacts TechCrunch has spoken with over the years, have been affected. Musk expressed his distaste for internal communications as soon as he took over the company, passing on little information to Twitter employees about the changes, so it’s no surprise that the internal communications team has also been affected, including the head of internal communications.
Machine Learning Ethics, Transparency and Accountability
Musk dissolved a team known internally as META, which was well-respected for its research work in ethical artificial intelligence and algorithmic transparency. Ruman Chowdhury, the team director, was eliminatedalong with team engineers and other members.
Some of the cuts make sense, given the things Musk apparently doesn’t pay much attention to (human rights and accessibility, alarming!), but Twitter’s new owner has apparently also cut teams that seem poised to help him extract more value from the company. The curatorial team curated the moments section, programmed the trending topics section, provided context for those topics, and also managed live events — many of the things Twitter does best. The team is also working to combat misinformation on the platform — serious and consequential concerns that Musk has it has already deteriorated in less than seven working days.
A politician reports that half of the company’s public policy team was let go, including Michelle Austin, former director of public policy and elections in Canada and the US, who actively worked on the US midterm elections. Those layoffs also reportedly include members of the Twitter team who work to verify the accounts of political figures.
This story unfolds…