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Mass exodus from Twitter confirmed after Elon Musk guts staff and increases workload

The CEO gave employees until 5 p.m. Eastern time Thursday to decide whether to work long hours to keep the social media application running — or walk.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Mass firings and resignations amid a public relations crisis due to high workload demands and the proliferation of fake accounts under Elon Musk have left many users wondering if Twitter will still exist by next week. 

Musk, who completed the $44 billion takeover of the company in late October, fired much of its full time workforce by email early this month and is expected to eliminate an untold number of contract jobs for those responsible for fighting misinformation and other harmful content. The company has not responded to media requests for information since Musk took over. 

The CEO said this week that employees would need to decide by 5 p.m. Eastern time Thursday if they could work much longer hours to keep the social media application running. They would be required to resign with severance pay by that deadline, if they could not commit to what he calls “Twitter 2.0.” In the hours after 5 p.m. ET, hashtags such as “RIP Twitter” and “oneteam” trended as hundreds of employees publicly announced their resignations.

“I thought I did my farewell 2 weeks ago when layoff happened. Oh boy I was wrong,” Kate Lee shared. “Bye amazing people. It was an honor to have crossed our paths.”

Lee said in a message that she was not sure how many people were laid off this week, but said of those who left the company Thursday, “I think it’s more voluntary-based.”

Erin Lang shared "Today has been the hardest day of my entire career. Even though I made the decision to go all in on Twitter 2.0, my heart is broken seeing all the amazing Tweeps leaving the nest today. Go crush it in your next chapter, Tweeps!"

A number of engineers also said on Twitter they were fired after saying something critical of Musk, either publicly on Twitter or on an internal messaging board for Twitter employees. 

Meanwhile, Musk tweeted nearly every day for the past week, including one since-deleted post after being attacked for firing employees who spoke back on the platform: “I would like to apologize for firing these geniuses. Their immense talent will no doubt be of great use elsewhere.” He ended Thursday with the tweet “How do you make a small fortune in social media? Start out with a large one.”

Reacting to the tumult and mass layoffs at Twitter, a group of Democratic senators on Thursday asked federal regulators to investigate any possible violations by the platform of consumer-protection laws or of its data-security commitments, Associated Press reports. The senators also asked Lina Khan, head of the Federal Trade Commission, to take enforcement action if needed against Twitter and company executives for “any breaches or business practices that are unfair or deceptive.”

“Users are already facing the serious repercussions of this growth-at-all-costs strategy,” they wrote, noting recent incidences of fake accounts impersonating President Joe Biden, lawmakers, athletes, companies and others.

“We are concerned that the actions taken by Mr. Musk and others in Twitter management could already represent a violation of the FTC’s consent decree, which prohibits misrepresentation and requires that Twitter maintain a comprehensive information-security program,” the letter says.

The multi-billionaire’s moves have come under scrutiny from experts in business and communications law, and have spurred at least three lawsuits from fired employees.

Los Angeles-based lawyer Lisa Bloom shared on Twitter that Musk’s demands that employees prepare to work more demanding hours, or walk within 24 hours, could run into legal trouble. 

‘’Under federal and state laws, those with physical or mental disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations by their employers,” she said. “For many, this would include working reasonable hours.” 

Bloom added that because childcare still overwhelmingly disproportionately impacts female workers, female workers who cannot meet Musk’s long hour demands could pursue a gender discrimination claim. And workers over 40 get “21-45 days to consider releasing claims, not 24 hours.”

“Workers depend on their jobs. Their livelihood is not a game to be toyed with by a billionaire bully,” she said.

 "Employment law does not work that way. You cannot deprive people of unemployment benefits and wrongful termination cases by saying that they resigned. Nice try though!”

Bloom also said of Musk’s promise to give three months’ severance to employees who left Thursday, that the same was supposedly promised to thousands of employees fired weeks ago.

“My clients, fired Twitter workers, and I intend to enforce that promise."

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