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Elon Musk plans to cut 75% of Twitter staff after buyout: Report

Elon Musk. (Suzanne Cordeiro/For the Austin American-Statesman/TNS)
October 21, 2022

Billionaire Elon Musk is closing in on finalizing his Twitter buyout and, according to the Washington Post, is already telling investors to expect him to cut the number of employees at the social media company by 75 percent.

The cuts Musk is aiming for would bring Twitter down from about 7,500 employees to about 2,000. The planned cuts would save the company hundreds of millions in payroll while likely cutting back much of the platform’s content moderation.

The Washington Post did not specify how it learned of Musk’s announcement to investors about staff cuts. In a June company meeting, Musk did say he would fire the company’s poor performers.

Musk has repeatedly indicated he wants to overhaul Twitter’s content moderation methods to make the platform more open to free speech, even if it is controversial.

If Musk were to go through with the massive staff cuts at Twitter, it could dramatically reduce the size and scope of whatever content moderation the platform does employ going forward. Critics of the proposed staffing cuts say that the decrease in content moderation is exactly why such staffing cuts are a bad idea.

Edwin Chen, who previously managed Twitter’s spam and health metrics and is now CEO of the content-moderation start-up Surge AI told the Washington Post cutting the majority of Twitter’s staff would be “unimaginable.” Chen said he felt Twitter is overstaffed but the cuts Musk was proposing would risk the platform being hacked or flooded with offensive material such as child pornography.

A dramatic reduction in Twitter staff, including the platform’s moderators, could reduce the type of politically motivated censorship critics of the platform have complained about.

In 2020, with weeks to go before the election, the platform locked the New York Post’s account over its coverage of the contents of a laptop Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden allegedly abandoned at a computer repair shop. The laptop contained information about Hunter’s foreign business activities and his father’s apparent knowledge of those activities.

Former New York Times journalist Alex Berenson has also claimed he was kicked off of Twitter after Biden administration officials asked the platform to ban him following his criticism of the COVID-19 vaccines. Berenson successfully sued Twitter to have his account reinstated earlier this year.

Twitter could be facing staff cuts even if Musk’s buyout deal does somehow fall through.

According to internal documents obtained by the Washington Post, Twitter’s current management planned to cut about a quarter of the company’s staff, reducing the company’s payroll by about $800 million.

The Washington Post reported Musk has told investors that he plans to double Twitters revenue within three years, and would triple the number of daily users at the same time.

Such a huge staff cut could help free up billions for Twitter, but Wedbush investment analyst Dan Ives told the Associated Press said cuts alone won’t help Musk meet his goals for the platform.

“A 75 percent headcount cut would indicate, at least out of the gates, stronger free cash flow and profitability, which would be attractive to investors looking to get in on the deal,” Ives said. “That said, you can’t cut your way to growth.”

While the proposed staff cuts might help attract investors, corporate governance expert Nell Minow also the Washington Post, that Musk would still need to demonstrate that the company can function without so much of its staff.

“He’s got to be able to show if he makes those cuts, what happens next?” Minow said. “What’s he gonna replace it with, AI?”

Musk reportedly told associates he views the massive cuts of Twitter’s current staff as the first step in a plan to then bring in new employees and new innovations for the platform.