“Free speech” apparently only goes so far inside Twitter.
New owner Elon Musk has reportedly fired several employees for criticizing his leadership publicly on Twitter and privately in internal Slack channels.
At least two longtime engineers at the social media platform were let go over the weekend after they pushed back on some of the comments the billionaire posted on the site, Bloomberg News reported. And, confirming reports out of Protocal and Platformer that additional employees were fired for private Slack messages, Musk offered a brief apology on Tuesday: “I would like to apologize for firing these geniuses. Their immense talent will no doubt be of great use elsewhere.”
I would like to apologize for firing these geniuses. Their immense talent will no doubt be of great use elsewhere.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 15, 2022
Per Platformer, it seems about 20 employees so far were fired Tuesday for private Slack messages criticizing their new leadership, as emails stating, “We regret to inform you that your employment is terminated immediately … Your recent behavior has violated company policy,” were sent out.
The news comes after a Sunday break where Musk, who touts himself as committed to “free speech”, canned Eric Frohnhoefer, who said he spent six years working on Twitter for Android.
Sunday night, Frohnhoefer reposted a tweet from Musk “for Twitter being super slow in many countries,” and said it was wrong. Musk replied and asked Frohnhoefer to elaborate, before writing, “Twitter is super slow on Android. What have you done to fix that?”
The engineer ended up in an exchange with Musk explaining some technical aspect of the app on Android and offering his view on why it might run slowly.
In a since-deleted tweet, Musk posted, “He’s fired.” Frohnhoefer retweeted the post with a saluting emoji.
Late Monday, Frohnhoefer retweeted his last comment on the thread of that conversation, which was a suggestion for what the company should prioritize, stating, “I still got fired.” He also shared a screenshot of his locked Mac with the comment, “Guess it’s official now.”
Frohnhoefer told Forbes Monday afternoon that he received no formal communications from the company at all about his dismissal. “Nope, nothing,” he said. “They’re all a bunch of cowards.”
A second engineer, Ben Leib, retweeted Musk’s initial charge that Twitter is “super slow” with the comment, “As the former tech lead for timelines infrastructure at Twitter, I can confidently say this man has no idea wtf he’s talking about,” on Sunday afternoon. The decade-long employee told Bloomberg he got a pink slip on Sunday.
The two engineers are among roughly 3,700 employees who lost their jobs since Musk went through with his $44 billion buyout of the company Oct. 27. Among the first to go were the former CEO and chief financial officer, along with other senior management.
Frohnhoefer tweeted early Tuesday confirming that the firings continued beyond him. “Just woke up to the news that more Tweeps were summarily fired last night. At this rate no one will be left to run Twitter,” he said.
The public exchanges online reflected the former management’s corporate culture, Bloomberg said, noting that while it wasn’t routine to challenge leadership publicly, workers often spoke out on internal Slack channels and by email.
The management shift has led to communication issues among the staff, including leaving staffers unclear about who is in charge or what their priorities are, Bloomberg reported.
Musk has moved to recall all remaining employees back to Twitter headquarters or risk being fired. He’s also reportedly ended free lunches at the office.