Days after the emergence of Elon Musk’s plan to carry out a Twitter firing if you buy the company, platform employees published an open letter (see in full at the end of the text) denouncing that the proposal would be “imprudent”. According to Washington Post, Billionaire Wants to Fire 75% of Twitter Employeessomething the company denied to its workers in a memo.
In the open letter, employees warn that mass layoffs would affect the social network’s ability to respond to public debate and undermine users’ trust in the platform. Something similar was claimed by Edwin Chen, a former data scientist at Twitter, who also commented on the impact of the layoff on content moderation.
“Twitter is central to public debate”
The open letter, which does not specify the number of signatures, addresses two points: public debate and working conditions. In the first case, the text highlights examples of the use of Twitter to promote independent journalism in Ukraine and Iran, also citing the use of the platform by various social movements around the globe.
In Ukraine, the social network also allows residents of Russian-occupied territories to report the situation of the war, even denouncing cases of war crimes and allowing Ukrainian troops publicize their conquests firsthand — Images of the release of Izium in the east of the country surfaced on Twitter and other social media before confirmation in major outlets.
In Iran, Twitter is the main tool for international dissemination of protests against the country’s regime. In the new wave of protests, which has lasted 40 days, the social network gathers videos of the demonstrations. Despite being blocked in the country since the beginning of the uprising, the use of VPNs allows the population to organize actions and use the social network.
A reduced headcount would not only affect Twitter’s infrastructure. For Chen, content moderation capability would be heavily impactedallowing users to be exposed to sensitive content such as child pornography.
Comparing with the situation in Iran, government agencies in Tehran could carry out mass reporting of videos, overloading a lean team and making it difficult to show content contrary to the dictatorship.
Working Conditions on Twitter
In the second half of the letter, employees divide their demands for working conditions into four points: respect, safety, protection and dignity. At the first point, they demand that, regardless of who acquires the company, the current framework is maintained.
The letter also asks that no employee be discriminated against because of race, disability, gender, sexual orientation or political stance. The text reinforces that Twitter needs to commit to the security of its foreign employees, dependent on a work visa to stay in the country.
Another point raised by the employees is the maintenance of their labor benefits. Months ago, Elon Musk has taken a stand against remote worksomething allowed by the current direction of Twitter — and supported by several companies.
letter in full
Employees, Elon Musk and Board of Directors
We, the Twitter employees who sign this letter, believe that public debate is in jeopardy.
Elon Musk’s plan to lay off 75% of Twitter’s employees will affect its ability to serve public debate. A threat of this magnitude is reckless, undermines users and customers’ trust in our platform, and is a clear deterrent to employees.
Twitter has significant effects on societies and communities around the globe. As we speak, Twitter is helping to promote independent journalism in Ukraine and Iran, as well as strengthening social movements around the world.
A threat to Twitter employees is a threat to Twitter’s future. These threats impact us as employees and show a fundamental disconnect with the reality of how Twitter operates. They threaten our livelihoods, access to basic healthcare and the ability of workers on visas to stay in the country where they work. We cannot do our jobs in an environment of constant harassment and threats. Without our work, there is no Twitter.
We, the employees of Twitter, will not be intimidated. We are committed to supporting the communities, organizations and businesses that rely on Twitter. We won’t stop supporting public debate
We urge Twitter management and Elon Musk to stop these reckless threats of mass layoffs. As employees, we deserve concrete commitment so that we can continue to preserve the integrity of our platform.
We demand from current and future leaders:
Respect: We demand that leadership respect the platform and the employees who maintain it through a commitment to preserving the current workforce.
Safety: We demand that leadership does not discriminate against employees on the basis of their race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or political stance. We also require security for employees with visas, who will be forced to leave the country they work in if they are laid off.
Protection: We require Elon Musk to publicly commit to preserving our benefits, both those listed in the purchase agreement and those that are not (eg remote work). We require leadership to establish and ensure fair severance policies for all workers before and after any change of ownership.
Dignity: We demand transparent, agile and serious communication about our working conditions. We demand to be treated with dignity, not as pawns in a billionaires game.