Death is in the air on Twitter.
On the platform Thursday night, where #RIPTwitter was the biggest trend globally, users wrote what they feared would be their last posts, anguished farewells and listing the other (more stable) social media platforms where they can still be found.
They were responding to the dire news that came from inside Twitter. Dozens of the social media firm’s remaining employees appeared Thursday to reject owner Elon Musk’s ultimatum to work “extremely hardcore,” throwing the communications platform into utter confusion and raising serious questions about how long it will survive.
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Twitter’s death would have serious consequences given how integral the platform is to global communication. The platform is often compared to a digital city square. World leaders use Twitter to communicate, journalists use Twitter to gather news, dissidents in repressive countries use Twitter to organize, celebrities and big brands use Twitter to make important announcements, and the public often uses Twitter to follow everything in real time .
If the platform were to die out or become unusable due to instability issues, no space could immediately replace it and communication across multiple social media websites could be broken, leading to a seismic disruption and slowing down of information flow.
In fact, a mass layoff took place within the company’s Slack after Musk’s 5 p.m. deadline for employees to reach a decision was passed. Hundreds of staffers appear to have quit and accepted Musk’s offer to leave in exchange for three months of layoffs.
Employees flooded the “#social-watercooler” channel with the salute emoji, indicating their choice not to sign Musk’s pledge. A similar chain of events unfolded on the Slack channel earlier this month, when Musk eliminated about 50% of the company’s then-7,500 workforce.
A former Twitter executive, who recently left the company, described the situation as a “mass exodus”. Asked about the situation, the former executive said, “Elon is learning he can’t bully top senior talent. They have many options and will not put up with his antics.
“They will struggle to keep the lights on,” the former director added.
That assessment was universally shared Thursday by the other half-dozen current and former employees. It was bad enough after Musk carried out mass layoffs at the company earlier this month. So much so that Twitter asked some of the people it unleashed to come back several days later. The state of affairs has only become more dire since then.
In fact, Twitter management was in a panic hours before the deadline, people familiar with the matter said, explaining that senior leaders were “scribbling” to convince talent to stay with the company.
Musk himself finally seemed to realize the grim state of affairs and sent an email to the entire staff to remotely relax his previously uncompromising anti-work stance. “With regard to remote work, all it takes for approval is for your manager to take responsibility for making sure you are an outstanding contributor,” Musk said in the email.
It didn’t seem to do much good.
Two employees who had decided on Thursday to reject Musk’s ultimatum knew quite clearly why they did so. “I don’t want to stick around to build a product that is poisoned inside and out,” said one of them, later adding that he felt good about making a decision “in accordance with true I stand for”.
A recently fired employee who keeps in touch with former colleagues said, “People don’t want to sacrifice their mental health and family life to make the richest man in the world richer.”
And Twitter seemed to understand the mess Thursday night, sending an email to staff letting them know it has once again closed all of its offices and suspended access to employee badges, presumably to protect its systems and data.
Twitter’s already decimated communications department did not respond to requests for comment. But Musk nodded to the situation in a tweet.
“How do you make a small fortune with social media?” asked Musk. “Start with a big one.”