Twitter is already facing a class-action lawsuit from some employees that the company has fired without federally required notice. Now, instead of realizing the error of its ways, Twitter decided this weekend that the next round of layoffs should come without any notice.
On Saturday, Platformer’s Casey Newton tweeted that a large number of Twitter contract employees inside and outside the US had been laid off. This decision was apparently made so abruptly that not even the contractors’ managers were told they were going to lose workers. Business Insider released the email sent to contract workers, coolly informing them that Monday would be their last day and that no work was required of them that day. The Verge estimates that 4,500 to 5,500 employees were affected by content moderation, marketing, engineering and other teams. By some estimates, this represents 80 percent of all Twitter contract workers.
“One of my contractors has just been deactivated without notice while making critical changes to our child safety workflows,” a manager wrote in Slack, according to Newton’s tweet thread.
A contract worker messaged Newton directly to confirm his reporting, claiming, “I heard I was fired from reading your tweets.”
Insider spoke to two contract workers who have been fired. They said they noticed they lost access to their Twitter email accounts before getting the email saying they had been fired. The same has reportedly happened to Twitter staff during the previous round of layoffs.
One of the recently fired contract workers told Insider that Twitter’s insensitive way of taking layoffs is inappropriate, saying, “I don’t understand how they didn’t learn from last week’s debacle of firing full-time workers without telling them.”
According to the internal email shared by Insider, contract workers were told they were being laid off over a “re-prioritisation and savings exercise in an effort to better focus during this resource-constrained period.” The email informed the employees that their contract had ended, asked them to submit any expense reports or time sheets, and reminded them of the nondisclosure agreement they had signed, promising not to share confidential information about their past projects.
“Thank you for your service,” Twitter signed the letter and forwarded all questions from contract workers to the IT staffing company that hired them, Surya Systems, Inc.
Surya Systems did not respond to Ars’s request for comment. Twitter has fired its communications department.
While this round of layoffs seemed to come out of nowhere for many, Musk told Twitter employees in a recent question-and-answer session that he still viewed the company as overstaffed. Journalist Kara Swisher tweeted a question that many watching the Twitter chaos unfold are probably wondering: “Why were there 5,500 contractors in the first place?”
According to The Washington Post, partly as a result of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, social media companies such as Twitter, Google and Facebook were pressured by Congress to hire thousands of content moderators in 2017. At the time, Facebook confirmed it had about 15,000 contract workers, while Twitter more modestly doubled its contract workers to about 1,500.
It seems that in the years since, Twitter continued to grow its indentured servants into what Swisher suggested was “one big bloat.”
However, these latest cuts could further destabilize the platform. Employees told Newton that Twitter, which is losing so many contractors, is “expected to have a significant impact on content moderation and the core infrastructure services that keep the site running.”
Sources reported “bitter” feelings among laid-off contract workers — with many workers feeling “bewildered”.
“You don’t have to treat people like that,” Newton tweeted compassionately.