Twitter conducted an unexpected round of layoffs this weekend as the company struggles with plunging revenue and aggressive cost cutting under CEO Elon Musk.
The Information first reported on the layoffs, saying the company let go of at least 50 employees on Saturday across different departments, including engineers who help keep the social network running.
The layoffs also included “hardcore Musk loyalists,” tweeted Zoë Schiffer, who covers the company closely for Platformer. She added that the layoffs included “a ton of surprises.” For instance, she tweeted, among the laid-off was Esther Crawford, chief executive of Twitter Payments. In early November, Crawford tweeted, “When your team is pushing round the clock to make deadlines sometimes you #SleepWhereYouWork.”
One senior product manager, Martijn de Kuijper, tweeted that he’d been locked out of his email account. De Kuijper, who founded Revue, an editorial newsletter tool Twitter acquired in 2021, tweeted: “Waking up to find I’ve been locked out of my email. Looks like I’m let go. Now my Revue journey is really over.”
Fortune has reached out to Twitter and will update this story with any reply.
Since Musk took over the company in October last year, Twitter’s headcount has fallen by over 70%, and its chief source of revenue, advertising, has fallen significantly.
The company has seen some technical glitches amid the turmoil. On Feb. 8, Twitter users across North America were unable to send messages, with an error message saying they were “over the daily limit for sending tweets.”
“Twitter may not be working as expected for some of you. Sorry for the trouble. We’re aware and working to get this fixed,” the company tweeted.
Musk has attempted to generate revenue in other ways besides advertising, but so far those efforts have done little to improve the company’s financial position. Among the initiatives has been Twitter Blue, a monthly subscription service that includes a blue verification check mark. That service got off to a rocky start when trolls used it to impersonate brands and celebrities. According to the Information, by the middle of last month only about 180,000 users had signed up for the service.
Many advertisers have been wary of where Musk, a self-described “free-speech absolutist,” would take the platform. That didn’t stop Musk from wading into various touchy topics this weekend, even amid the layoffs.
Musk came to the defense of Scott Adams, creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip, after newspapers across the country canceled it for comments they called “racist,” “hateful,” and “discriminatory.” Adams had described people who are Black as members of “a hate group” from which white people should “get away.”
Musk tweeted: “For a *very* long time, US media was racist against non-white people, now they’re racist against whites & Asians. Same thing happened with elite colleges & high schools in America. Maybe they can try not being racist.”
Musk also this weekend applauded a Saturday Night Live opening monologue by Woody Harrelson touching on COVID vaccines and the pandemic. The actor talked about one of the “craziest scripts” he’s read.
“So the movie goes like this,” the actor explained. “The biggest drug cartels in the world get together and buy up all the media and all the politicians and force all the people in the world to stay locked in their homes. And people can only come out if they take the cartel’s drugs and keep taking them over and over.
“I threw the script away,” he then joked. “I mean, who was going to believe that crazy idea? Being forced to do drugs? I do that voluntarily all day.”
Must tweeted in reply, “So based. Nice work @nbcsnl!”
When one Twitter wrote, “Get ready for the meltdowns,” Musk replied: “Maybe they [media outlets] don’t realize that their propaganda is wrong?”
Musk also chimed in on the origins of the pandemic after the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that the U.S. Energy Department was leaning toward the COVID lab-leak theory, joining the FBI in that regard.
When fellow PayPal alum David Sacks shared the article and tweeted that Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and others were behind a disinformation campaign about the lab origins of the coronavirus, Musk replied, “Exactly.”
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