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Musk’s inner circle worked through weekend to cement Twitter layoff plans

The first round of layoffs, led by his lawyer Alex Spiro, will target 25 percent of the workforce

Elon Musk completed his purchase of Twitter on Oct. 27. Layoffs are imminent according to people familiar with the company's thinking, possibly as early as this week. (Amy Osborne for The Washington Post)

SAN FRANCISCO — Members of billionaire Elon Musk’s inner circle huddled with Twitter’s remaining senior executives throughout the weekend, conducting detailed discussions regarding the site’s approach to content moderation and spam, as well as plans to lay off 25 percent of the workforce to start.

Alex Spiro, a well-known celebrity lawyer who has represented Musk for several years, led those conversations. Spiro is taking an active role in managing several teams at Twitter, including legal, government relations, policy and marketing, according to four people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe them, as well as tweets from some of the people involved.

Longtime Musk associates David Sacks and Jason Calacanis appeared in a company directory over the weekend, according to photos obtained by The Washington Post. Both had official company emails, and their titles were “staff software engineer.” Musk’s title in the directory was CEO, although that position had not been publicly announced. He refers to himself as “Chief Twit.”

A document filed with financial regulators Monday showed Twitter’s board had been dismissed, another step leaving the company in Musk’s sole control.

Later Monday, a financial filing officially revealed that Musk is CEO of the company.

On Oct. 27, Elon Musk completed his purchase of Twitter and began taking control of the social media company, firing several key executives. (Video: Jonathan Baran/The Washington Post)

Meanwhile, the team was deciding on what is expected to be a first round of layoffs, which will target roughly a quarter of the staff totaling more than 7,000, according to one of the people. Layoffs will touch almost all departments, and are expected to specifically impact sales, product, engineering, legal, and trust and safety in the coming days, the person said. After engineers, some of Twitter’s highest-paid employees work in sales, where several earn more than $300,000, according to documents viewed by The Post.

Twitter, Musk, Spiro, Sacks and Calacanis did not respond to requests for comment.

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Elon Musk and Twitter
‘The bird is freed’
Elon Musk completed the acquisition of Twitter for $44 billion on Oct. 27. A lot has happened since then as Musk moves to overhaul the company, taking it private and firing top executives and handing half of Twitter’s workers pink slips.
Before the billionaire sealed the deal, an analysis of his 19,000 tweets showed his complicated relationship with Twitter.
Content moderation
Musk stated his desire to own the social media company so that there’s “an inclusive arena for free speech.” But not long after Musk took control, the Twitter trolls went on a rampage.
In an attempt to reassure advertisers, Musk said during a Twitter Spaces he had noted concerns about hate speech and misinformation on the platform. However, concerns continued to grow after top executives, including those leading content moderation efforts, quit.
The new blue check marks
Paid verification was the first product to launch under Musk’s leadership, and its roll-out was anything but smooth. The $7.99 subscription allowed any user to have a sought-after blue check mark, but after an explosion of impersonation accounts the program was paused. The backlash to the flood of misinformation caused some brands to pull their advertising from the platform.
Check your Twitter privacy settings if you’re worried about your data.
Be hardcore
Musk issued the remaining staff an ultimatum: commit to a new “hardcore” Twitter with longer hours and no remote work or leave the company with severance pay. Hundreds are said to have made the decision to leave the company.
The number of likely departures prompted Musk to ease his return-to-office edict and managers to meet to decide which engineers to ask back, causing many to question whether Twitter is on the verge of shutting down.

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The billionaire Tesla owner bought Twitter for $44 billion last week after several strenuous months of negotiations and legal wrangling. Musk first made a bid for the company in the spring, then tried to back out months later. Twitter sued to force him to complete the deal, and eventually the entrepreneur acquiesced and offered to buy the company for his original offer price.

Musk has turned to several longtime allies as he begins his overhaul of Twitter. Members of Musk’s team were in New York City, where Twitter has a corporate office, taking meetings on Monday, according to social media posts.

Sacks, a conservative firebrand and donor, has worked with Musk from their days running PayPal together two decades ago. Sacks has posted strong ideas about content moderation online and has criticized censorship from Big Tech.

Calacanis is also a longtime Musk friend who texted him frequently to offer advice on the deal, including about job cuts, court records showed.

Documents detail plans to gut Twitter’s workforce

Calacanis tweeted that Saturday was “Day Zero” alongside a photo of a Twitter coffee mug, adding that he had discussed safety issues, along with bots and trolls, with Yoel Roth, a Twitter executive responsible for content moderation policy. Roth then posted details about those policies.

On Sunday, Musk posted apparent internal messages from Roth about Twitter metrics, arguing they show Twitter’s board and lawyers “deliberately hid … evidence from the court.” The tweet showed Musk using his newly gained access to internal information to potentially settle scores.

The new leadership team is asking questions about every aspect of the business, including details of content moderation, spam and the risks of upcoming elections, the people said. They also discussed identity verification on the platform, including verifying high profile users with blue check marks, according to a Musk tweet and the people.

Another Musk associate who tweeted about his involvement, Sriram Krishnan, a partner focusing on cryptocurrency at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, also tweeted he was helping out with the deal. The firm invested $400 million. He describes himself as a former Twitter executive on his LinkedIn page.

On Monday, a financial filing revealed Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey — the company’s former CEO — rolled over his Twitter shares into the new company, making him one of Musk’s investors.

Less than three days into Musk’s ownership, Twitter employees remained in the dark about any new plans for the company as of Sunday evening, according to numerous employees contacted by The Post, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs. The company has yet to release a formal announcement of the acquisition. The communications department has gone silent. Rumors have swirled about layoffs, with some notices going out quietly.

Twitter layoffs are imminent

Layoffs are expected to begin ahead of Nov. 1, when Twitter employees are slated to receive additional compensation related to stock grants. On Sunday, Musk tweeted that reporting about impending layoffs at Twitter next week was “false.”

Earlier this year, Musk told prospective partners in the deal that he planned to cut nearly 75 percent of Twitter’s total workforce, which would leave the company with about 2,000 employees, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Post. Musk last week told employees when he visited Twitter’s headquarters that he didn’t plan to cut three-fourths of the workforce.

Another person familiar with the deal who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters last week said the total number of layoffs is likely to be closer to 50 percent.

Already, Musk has fired four senior executives, sent Tesla engineers to evaluate Twitter’s software code, and has tweeted that he plans to form a content moderation council of experts.

Meanwhile, illustrating the difficulties of his new task, Musk tweeted out content from a site that is known to publish misinformation this weekend.

On Saturday, Hillary Clinton, the former first lady and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, posted a tweet criticizing the GOP for spreading “hate and deranged conspiracy theories” that she said had emboldened the man who attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, inside the couple’s home in San Francisco early Friday.

Musk wrote, in a reply to the tweet, that “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye,” sharing a link to an article in the Santa Monica Observer, a site described by fact-checkers as a low-credibility source favoring the extreme right. The article alleges, without evidence, that Paul Pelosi was drunk and in a fight with a male prostitute, referencing a conspiracy theory that had previously been spread on the right. Other right-wing influencers who Musk has interacted with online also amplified the conspiratorial narrative.

The actions by Musk, who has since removed the tweet, show that Twitter has a complicated path ahead, particularly in navigating Musk’s public actions and squaring that with what he says privately.

Rachel Lerman contributed to this report.

correction

An earlier version of this article misspelled Jason Calacanis‘s name in some instances. This story has been updated.

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