Twitter pregnant
POSTER MUM: Rachel Bonn, a Twitter employee who is eight-months pregnant, stated that access to her work laptop was cut off on Thursday night, hours after Elon Musk said layoffs would be announced on Friday via email. Image Credit: Twitter | @RachBonn

A Twitter employee who is eight months pregnant claims that on Thursday, hours after Elon Musk said layoffs would be disclosed through email on Friday, her laptop access was "turned off."

The content marketing manager has been employed by Twitter since 2019. She also has a nine-month-old child.

Just hours after the workforce received a document detailing Friday's mass layoffs, Rachel Bonn tweeted.

Poster mum of Twitter layoffs

Rachel Bonn posted a photo of her and her nine-month-old child in front of rows of pumpkins and a large Twitter logo on Twitter.

Her message was posted the same day as a memo to the Twitter workforce stated that emails informing them of their potential layoffs would be delivered on Friday morning.

Content moderation concerns

Elon Musk's broad-based cuts at Twitter Inc. are leading current and former employees to question whether the social network will have the resources to keep crucial systems like content moderation running effectively, including during the US midterm elections on Tuesday.

The combination of massive layoffs, along with the end of verified users less than a week before the US election takes place, creates a combustible situation that could burst into flames at any point

- Melissa Ryan, Card Strategies

Musk on Thursday and Friday slashed over half the staff, affecting almost every team at the company.

Product and engineering teams were gutted by well over 50%, according to two sources, and other groups " — like communications, marketing, human rights and diversity " — were almost completely eliminated. Those who were suddenly restricted from email and Slack were left frantically messaging in outside Signal and chat groups to understand who was still employed.

"It's like a fire," said one former worker. "People are looking for survivors."

Dramatic scaling down

The dramatic scaling down of the company's staff immediately drew scrutiny from Twitter insiders, outside groups and disinformation watchers, who say it's unclear how Twitter will manage its sprawling network, which has an outsized impact on global political and cultural conversation, with far fewer people at the helm.

Twitter has historically been a major tool for following news during elections, as the first place information gets reported before it ends up on television or other social networks.

Site 'massively disrupted'

Now, the site "has been massively disrupted," becoming vulnerable to problems during high-traffic moments, or coordinated disinformation campaigns, said Dr. Kate Starbird, an associate professor at the University of Washington and co-founder of the Center for an Informed Public.

Some of the ways that that platform worked yesterday are not going to be the the ways that they work today, tomorrow and going into the election on Tuesday."

Twitter's curation team, which wrote context for trending topics and worked with media groups to publish content that fact-checked major news events, has been dissolved, two people say. The legal policy team, which removes content based on government and legal requests and reviews law enforcement inquiries for user data, faced "massive cuts," according to a person familiar with the matter.

The communications team at Twitter, responsible for engaging with journalists and putting out press releases, was cut from nearly 100 people to two, other people say. The partners team, which builds and maintains relationships with celebrity users, like athletes, actors and musicians, was almost completely eliminated.

Blue check

Also fueling the tension over the lack of content controls is Musk's plan to allow anyone to pay for a verification check mark on Twitter as soon as Monday, as part of a new initiative to drive revenue through subscriptions to Twitter Blue, its premium product.

If enacted as planned, it would mean anyone would be able to pay $8 to have their account look more legitimate, adding a risk they would impersonate candidates or government entities.

"The combination of massive layoffs, along with the end of verified users less than a week before the US election takes place, creates a combustible situation that could burst into flames at any point," said Melissa Ryan, chief executive officer of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation.

"Bad actors have a new tool to spread disinformation, harm, and cause chaos, and Twitter now lacks the capacity and institutional memory to deal with the inevitable problems."

Read more: How social media is helping midterm candidates spread the Big Lie

Beyond the election, if Twitter becomes more vulnerable to bad actors, the company's bottom line could be affected. Already, some advertisers have paused spending or expressed concern about the period of uncertainty. Musk tweeted Friday morning that "Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists."

Twitter's marketing organisation was among the groups hit hardest, with at most a couple dozen employees remaining from a team that had close to 400 people, according to two sources.

The ad sales organisation was less impacted by the job cuts, according to people familiar with the matter.

Still, one point of concern is that the senior level employees who would typically be called to help soothe advertiser concerns — people like head of sales Jean-Philippe Maheu or chief marketing officer Leslie Berland — were fired from the company earlier this week.

Content moderation

Twitter's US trust and safety team, which handles content moderation, was also impacted by layoffs, affecting 15% of staff, according to Yoel Roth, the head of safety and integrity at the company, who remains.

"With early voting underway in the US, our efforts on election integrity — including harmful misinformation that can suppress the vote and combatting state-backed information operations — remain a top priority," he said on Twitter. "While we said goodbye to incredibly talented friends and colleagues yesterday, our core moderation capabilities remain in place."

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that many of the tools that team uses to enforce its content moderation policies had been frozen, and those tools were still unavailable for most people as of Friday.

Musk previously told civil rights leaders that internal moderators would have access back by the end of the week. Roth said access will be restored "in the coming days."

Globally, the trust and safety team was decimated, including in Ireland, the company's main outpost for monitoring the rest of the world, according to another person.

"The entire Human Rights team has been cut from the company," Shannon Raj Singh, the counsel for that team, said on Twitter, adding that she was proud of her team for helping protect users during conflicts in Ukraine, Ethiopia and elsewhere.

'Not a tweep anymore': Layoffs likely to exact an emotional toll

The tweets were tinged with sadness, gratitude and pride as the hashtag #lovewhereyouworked was shared by hundreds of Twitter employees who had just gotten their pink slip.

They included a product marketer who's eight months pregnant, a creative director who spent more than a decade at the company and the former vice president of engineering who promised to help others who need assistance.

"Not a tweep anymore," one former employee tweeted Friday. "What an incredible time it was! #lovewhereyouwork was every bit true and more. To all the fantastic people I've had the pleasure to work with, wish you all the best regardless of the side you're on. Twitter, you were so good to me."

#TwitterLayoffs quickly became the top trending hashtag in the United States on Friday after the social media company launched mass layoffs late Thursday, cutting around half the company's workforce of 7,500.

Behind the headlines and speculation about the future of a Twitter controlled by new chief executive Elon Musk, there are many people who are experiencing the stress and sadness of losing their jobs, experts said.

"Losing a job, for most people, is one of the most traumatic experiences they'll experience in life," said Carl E. Van Horn, the director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development Rutgers University. "It's a very serious problem for people."

Several studies show that when people become unemployed they are more likely to experience poorer health and increased stress. Depression and anxiety are common. In some cases, losing a job can lead to substance use and suicidal thoughts.

Even the stress of impending layoffs can take a toll. In one study, mass layoffs were associated with lower birth weights in babies. The effect was strongest when layoffs occurred later in a woman's pregnancy. The effect was also seen one to four months before layoffs were announced, ostensibly because people knew the job cuts were coming.

People who remain at a company after co-workers are laid off are also hurt, research shows. The fear of being laid off next and how that would hurt their finances and social and family life increases their stress. Many suffer from survivor's guilt or a feeling of a failure, research suggests. Plus, their workload tends to increase, and they feel less empowered.

A current Twitter employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, described the past day as "absolutely jarring." They spent the night refreshing their Twitter feed to see who's been laid off. The employee claimed their workload has increased since Musk took over, a week ago. The person said they are already applying for other jobs.

"I really feel for all my colleagues who got laid off, and I'm really, really sad for them," the person said. "But I was really hoping that I was going to be part of that layoff group."

Employees at Twitter might have expected the layoffs to happen, Van Horn said. (Musk has been hinting at mass layoffs since before he took over the company.) But, still, layoffs often come as a shock.

Van Horn said he would advise people not to wait too long to start looking for work. Landing the next job can often take six months or more. You want to try to take the small steps toward a new job as quickly as possible. Apply for unemployment aid, cut back on unnecessary expenditures (where possible) and start updating your resume once you've come to terms with the mental toll of getting laid off.

"Getting the next job is a job in and of itself," he said. "Some people might get lucky and get a job right away but the labor market right now is good, not great."

While some people may see a layoff as an opportunity for a fresh start, research shows that many people who've lost their job struggle to find a position that matches their last salary and seniority, said Fran McKee Ryan, a professor of management at the University of Nevada at Reno.

"They may end up applying for jobs for which they are overqualified, and hiring managers often view overqualified workers as a flight risk," she said.

Our jobs are tied to our capacity to survive, said David L. Blustein, a professor in the department of counseling, developmental and educational psychology at Boston College.

"If people do not have access to a safety net, either through savings, family members' income, or government support, the period of unemployment can lead to intense anxiety about one's capacity to pay bills and maintain their standard of living," Blustein said.

After you've been laid off, ask yourself: What could I apply for? What makes me unique? And where can those skills best be applied? The unfortunate problem is your former co-workers and teammates are also looking for the same jobs, Van Horn said.

The good news is that Twitter's former employees are highly educated workers with sought-after skills, he said. It's not like shutting down the only steel plant in a small town. Twitter has employees all over the country, "and the labor market is still okay," Van Horn said.

Experts say it's important to emphasize that any layoff is not a reflection of your work - especially a massive layoff like Twitter's, which potentially reduced half its workforce. Future employers won't hold that against you.

"There's nothing to be embarrassed about. It's not your fault," Van Horn said. "You lost your job because the leadership of the company decided to go in a different direction."

File picture: Outside Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco. Twitter plans to acquire the subscription service Scroll. The two companies declined to disclose the deal terms. Image Credit: NYT