Twitter just cut a number of contractors — in the cruelest way possible
On Saturday, November 12th, a number of Twitter contractors found out that they were let go. Many of them didn’t find out by being told so; they found out by trying to log into their systems and seeing something like this:
I found out about this via someone on Mastodon, which led me to this tweet from Casey Newton of Platformer, who’s been providing some of the best coverage of Twitter under Elon Musk’s disastrous “leadership”:
Getting word that a large number of number of Twitter contractors were just laid off this afternoon with no notice, both in the US and abroad. Functions affected appear to include content moderation, real estate, and marketing, among others— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) November 13, 2022
At least one contractor learned the news from Casey’s tweet:
Even more worrisome was the importance of the work that some of these contractors were doing:
This just happened to me. I work(ed) in content moderation in political misinformation. — Melissa Ingle (@mingle74) November 13, 2022
What was the point?
It’s hard to find out why Twitter did such a thing because among the people who got laid off in last week’s 50% staff reduction were almost all of Twitter’s communications staff. There simply isn’t anyone to talk to.
Laying off contractors sounds like a fairly painless cost-cutting move, but it’s not necessarily so. The key part of “contractor” is its root word — contract. Ending a contract suddenly and early is often expensive, because contracts typically have an end date and usually list financial penalties for cancelling the contract before that end date.
As Ina Fried points out in her article on Axios, Twitter contractors have been “in limbo” thanks to the massive cuts in full-time staff:
- Some contractors were suddenly without people to report to.
- Some contractors suddenly found themselves on teams that didn’t have a single full-time employee, meaning that there was no one to sign off on their timesheets.
There’s no reason to treat people this way, but this is the way Musk does things, and his fans are lapping this up, since they see this as some kind of revenge-by-proxy against people they see as “undeserving”. As Adam Serwer put it in his article about Trump fans, whose circle in the Venn diagram overlaps a lot with the one for Musk fans, The Cruelty is the Point.
So why is this a reason to set up a Mastodon account?
Even from the most coldly pragmatic, Machiavellian angle, it’s time to get ready to ditch Twitter. Never mind the ethical stance of not supporting a Musk endeavor; every day is bringing some new action of Musk’s that further undermines the company, either financially or technologically. They’ve let go of a lot of key people, and those who “dodged the axe” are making their own plans to leave. Twitter is imploding, and if you like have a microblogging home, it’s time to find a new one.
Given the available options, Mastodon’s your best bet.