Elon Musk pulls a Thanos

About Fatu
By Fatu Ogwuche

Top of mind: Happy Sunday!

What a bloody week at Twitter. Mr Musk woke up and fired over 3000 of the company’s 7500 workforce. It’s not an easy time for Twitter employees. If you know any of them, reach out, send them flowers, and be kind.

In other news, Meta launches its biggest WhatsApp project yet, and big surprise – Africans are still falling for bitcoin pyramid schemes. No sympathies.

Let’s get to it.

3 big things:

  • Elon Musk wipes out Twitter
  • WhatsApp big moves
  • South African pyramids

Elon Musk pulls a Thanos

The short: Elon Musk wiped out over 3000 of Twitter’s 7500 workforce in massive layoffs reminiscent of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.

The build-up: 

Rundown of events following Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.

  • Senior executives left the company through a combination of resignations and firings. 
  • Musk dissolved the board of directors. 
  • Musk instructed Twitter teams to cut funding for cloud and server services to save $1 billion annually.
  • Major advertisers and brands like General Motors and General Mills suspended ads on the platform.
  • Twitter announced plans to charge $8 monthly as part of its paid model.
  • Elon Musk laid off half of the company’s workforce.

Tensions, layoffs, catharsis: On Thursday, Twitter employees received an inevitable company-wide message informing them there would be mass layoffs, and those affected would be notified via personal mail, which read: 

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 employees knew this would happen but were unaware of the scale. Dozens of employees tweeted about being fired, with some only realising this after suddenly losing access to their Twitter mail and Slack channel.

Fired employees were told:

It is with regret that we write to inform you that your role at Twitter has been impacted.

The emails came with a cheeky “Twitter” signature and “Team” as the sender – with employees expressing disappointment about Musk not having the guts to sign the emails in his name. The termination emails provided more information about severance packages, continuous salary payments, and health insurance coverage until January 4th. 

Some departments were hit harder than others – ethical AI, communications, marketing, partnerships, algorithms, curation and human rights teams were gutted.

However, the content moderation team was least affected since Musk desperately needs to convince advertisers that Twitter will not relax on its content moderation policies. 

Before losing access to internal slack channels, Twitter employees flooded the platform and Twitter with blue hearts, salute emojis, and tweets using the hashtags #OneTeam and #LoveWhereYouWorked – an ode to the phrase employees used to praise the workplace’s culture. 

Class actions: A group of current and former staff filed a class action complaint suing Twitter for failing to give a 60-day notice before mass layoffs in a company of its size, thereby violating the federal and California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act).

But…. Musk’s expensive lawyers could argue that since the official termination date is January 4th, the employees got a 60-day notice – despite them getting their access cut off on Friday – which the lawyers could further argue is to protect the company from internal sabotage if they had continued access.

The penalties for violating the WARN Act is the payment of back pay and benefits to employees, which is covered by the three-month severance pay offering. Musk claimed his severance package was above legal requirements, which mandates two months of severance pay. 

So, Musk might win the lawsuit.

Africa’s hurt, too: Africa was not left out of the madness. Twitter fired all the employees in Twitter’s African headquarters in Accra, Ghana, just three days after it opened. 

Twitter began hiring in Africa about a year ago, but the physical office officially opened on Tuesday. A few days ago, Twitter Ghana’s Senior Partner Manager tweeted ecstatically about the official opening on Tuesday and followed it up with news of his exit on Friday

Musk speaks out: 

Regarding Twitter’s reduction in force, unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day. Everyone exited was offered 3 months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required.

Final thoughts: There are moral and business arguments for Musk’s Twitter decisions. From a business perspective, I understand cutting costs for a company’s survival.

But from a moral-treat-humans-decently-perspective, I’m giving props to Twitter employees for reclaiming their dignity from a process that tried to strip them of it. I have never seen a more callous layoff process against employees who dedicated so much to their work.I wish them marvelous things. #OneTeam

WhatsApp’s big launch

The short: WhatsApp launches its most ambitious project to enable more functionality with Groups. 

Big changes: This week, Mark Zuckerberg announced that WhatsApp would be rolling out its Communities feature, allowing several WhatsApp groups to exist under one umbrella. 

Meta says the feature was created with school parents, workplaces, and neighbourhood communities in mind. Members can switch between the various groups in a community, and admins can easily send announcements to every subgroup at once. 

The Communities icon can be found at the top of your conversations on Android and the bottom for iPhones. Groups aren’t getting left out! Picking a pizza flavour will be less chaotic with the introduction of polls. Plus, you can now have video calls with up to 32 people.

How safe are Communities: Industry analysts are raising questions about Meta’s ability to manage its new products, given the existence of false news on WhatsApp Groups.

Meta says it’s taking steps to curtail illegal and dangerous activities in Communities. However, given that most of the information is encrypted, the company will rely on unencrypted details like the community’s name, description, and user reports.

If WhatsApp determines that a group is being used to disseminate materials, including child sexual abuse, plan violent acts, or participate in human tracking. In that case, it will either dismantle the community or ban all of its members.Final thoughts: Meta gradually unlocks WhatsApp’s full potential and lays the foundation for the app to be fully monetizable someday. I’d love to see WhatsApp generate as much revenue for the company as Instagram, so my stocks can rise again – it’s been a bloodbath.

Are people still losing money to bitcoin scams?

The short: South Africans lose $6 million to a fake bitcoin mining scheme. 

The scheme: South Africa’s National Consumer Commission (NCC) received complaints from customers who claimed that the Obelisk promoters had defrauded them of their money. 

How it works: New members are recruited by close friends and family members who persuade them to buy a “bitcoin mining machine” to make them money daily (pyramid, anyone?).

When they put in small amounts of money, everything works fine, but when they take risks with larger sums, they lose the ability to withdraw funds and are removed from the WhatsApp group. Haha.

Significant losses: The NCC says the scheme is run by people outside the country who secured South African phone numbers and bank accounts through their associates in the country. A total of 25 complaints have been filed with the NCC by participants who collectively lost R750 000 (~$41,000). The number of people who have participated is estimated at 4,000, losing R112 million (~$6 million) to the fraudsters.

Final thoughts: The Global Anti-Scam Alliance (GASA) says South Africa lost nearly R1.8 billion (over $100 million) to get-rich-quick schemes in 2021. That’s a whole lot of money. 

Africans, please, stop falling for these pyramid schemes. I beg you. 

That’s it for the week. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this week’s issue. Please respond to this email or find me on Twitter @fatuogwuche 🙂 

Ps – do us a solid by sharing the newsletter with your network of tech enthusiasts. Invite them to join the party 🙂

See you next Sunday!

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