Musk blames activists for Twitter ad woes

Twitter Inc started a major round of layoffs, alerting employees of their job status by email after barring the entrances to offices and cutting off workers' access to internal systems.

The move follows a week of chaos and uncertainty about the company's future under new owner Elon Musk, the world's richest person, who tweeted on Friday that the service was experiencing a "massive drop in revenue" as advertisers pulled spending.

Musk blamed the losses on a coalition of civil rights groups pressing Twitter's top advertisers to take action if he did not protect content moderation.

The groups said on Friday they are escalating their pressure and demanding brands pull their Twitter ads globally.

"In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday," Twitter said in an email to staff on Thursday night announcing the cuts.

The company was silent about the depth of the cuts, although internal plans reviewed by Reuters indicated Musk was looking to cut around 3700 staff, about half Twitter's workforce.

Staff who worked in engineering, communications, product, content curation and machine learning ethics were among those impacted by the layoffs, according to staff tweets.

Shannon Raj Singh, an attorney who was Twitter's acting head of human rights, tweeted on Friday that the entire human rights team at the company had been cut.

Musk has promised to restore free speech while preventing Twitter from descending into a "hellscape".

However, his reassurances have failed to calm major advertisers' apprehension about his takeover.

Volkswagen AG on Friday recommended its brands pause paid advertising on Twitter until further notice.

Its comments echoed similar remarks from other companies, including General Motors Co and General Mills Inc.

Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, said he knew of two more major advertisers preparing to announce they would pause ads on the platform.

Musk tweeted that his team had made no changes to content moderation and had done "everything we could" to appease the groups.

"Extremely messed up! They're (civil right groups) trying to destroy free speech in America," he wrote.

Speaking at an investors conference in New York on Friday, Musk called the activist pressure "an attack on the First Amendment".

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dozens of staffers tweeted they lost access to work email and Slack channels before receiving an official notice, which they took as a sign they had been laid off.

Twitter's curation team, which is responsible for highlighting and contextualising "the best events and stories that unfold on Twitter", was axed, employees said on the platform.

Staff also reported the company's communications team in India had been laid off and a team that focused on research into how Twitter employed algorithms, an issue that was a priority for Musk, was also cut.

Senior executives including president of engineering Arnaud Weber said their goodbyes on Twitter on Friday and employees of Twitter Blue, the premium subscription service Musk is bolstering, were also let go.

A class action was filed on Thursday against Twitter by its employees, who argued the company was conducting mass layoffs without providing the required 60-day advance notice, in violation of federal and California law.