The situation at social media platform Twitter is uncertain. Thanks to an “ultimatum” sent by the company’s new owner and CEO Elon Musk, a significant portion of the remaining staff might have quit. In less than a month, the company also laid off thousands of official Twitter employees. [Thanks, The Verge!]
Musk took possession of Twitter in late October 2022, months after offering to buy the site for about $44 billion USD. After attempting to back out of the deal, he accepted it rather than be forced by trial to hold up his end of it. Shortly after entering the building, he fired much of Twitter’s upper management, taking over the CEO role from Parag Agrawal. Days after that, he then initiated a mass layoff. Musk fired roughly half of the active staff (about 3,500 people), alongside an unspecified number of contractors that work with Twitter on things like content moderation.
The latest wave in the fast-moving saga is an email sent by Musk to the remaining staff on November 16, 2022. It demanded they commit to an “extremely hardcore” working culture to build “Twitter 2.0.” That “hardcore” quality included working under intense pressure and long hours. Those who did not click “yes” on a linked Google form would be given a severance package and be removed from the company. The ultimatum’s deadline was set for 5:00 PM Eastern Time on November 17, 2022. That deadline passed and according to reporting from The Verge, “hundreds” of now-former Twitter employees refused the call. These included teams “critical” to the day-to-day operation of the the platform, such as infrastructure and Site Reliability Engineers (SREs).
Depending on how this latest round of departures shakes out, there may not be enough people left at Twitter to keep things running in a reliable manner. This increases the risk of large-scale or long-lasting outages, as well as of unrecoverable errors cropping up the longer the site goes without people to maintain it.
Twitter is used worldwide by almost 250 million people. It’s particularly popular in Japan, where it is used as a newswire for public events and conversation. Many Japanese companies run public announcements and events through Twitter, and almost any game, anime series, or other pop-culture product comes with a bespoke set of hashtags.