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


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, 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 Calcanis 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 has not been publicly announced. He refers to himself as “Chief Twit.”

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.

Elon Musk acquires Twitter and fires top executives

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

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.

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.

Calcanis 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.

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.

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, 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.

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