Twitter’s chief executive, Parag Agrawal, sought to quell employee anger on Friday during a company-wide meeting where employees demanded answers to how managers planned to handle an anticipated mass exodus prompted by Elon Musk.
The meeting comes after Musk, the Tesla chief executive who sealed a $44bn deal to buy the social media company, repeatedly criticized Twitter’s content moderation practices and a top executive responsible for setting speech and safety policies.
At the internal town hall meeting, executives said the company would monitor staff attrition daily, but it was too soon to tell how the buyout deal with Musk would affect staff retention.
Musk has pitched lenders on slashing board and executive salaries but exact cost cuts remain unclear, according to sources familiar with the matter. One source said Musk would not make decisions on job cuts until he assumed ownership of Twitter.
“I’m tired of hearing about shareholder value and fiduciary duty. What are your honest thoughts about the very high likelihood that many employees will not have jobs after the deal closes?” one Twitter employee asked Agrawal, in a question read aloud during the meeting.
Agrawal answered that Twitter had always cared about its employees and would continue to do so.
“I believe the future Twitter organization will continue to care about its impact on the world and its customers,” he said.
Executives said during the meeting that the employee attrition rate had not changed compared to the levels before the news of Musk’s interest in buying the company.
In recent days, Musk has tweeted criticism of Twitter’s top lawyer, Vijaya Gadde, a Twitter veteran widely respected across Silicon Valley and internally known as Twitter’s “moral authority”.
On Monday, Gadde was reported to have cried during a virtual meeting with the company’s legal and policy teams as she expressed concerns over the trajectory of the company.
In response to the YouTuber Saajar Enjeti’s tweet about the company’s “top censorship advocate” who once censored the New York Post for a story on Hunter Biden’s laptop contents, Musk tweeted: “Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate.”
Musk’s attack triggered a barrage of online harassment targeting Gadde. Users took aim at Gadde, tweeting: “Just quit you scum” and “WHITE POWER! WHITE PRIDE!”
Earlier this week, Musk also pushed for end-to-end encryption on the social media platform, prompting concerns among users and lawmakers who fear that such protections may make it easier for extremists and criminals to operate online.
“Twitter DMs should have end to end encryption like Signal, so no one can spy on or hack your messages,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
Employees told executives they feared Musk’s erratic behavior could destabilize Twitter’s business and hurt it financially as the company prepares to address the advertising world in a presentation next week in New York City.
“Do we have a strategy in the near-term on how to handle advertisers pulling investment?” one employee asked.
Sarah Personette, Twitter’s chief customer officer, said the company was working to communicate frequently with advertisers and reassure them “the way that we service our customers is not changing”.
After the meeting, a Twitter employee told Reuters there was little trust in what executives had to say.
“The PR speak is not landing. They told us don’t leak and do a job you are proud of, but there is no clear incentive for employees to do this,” the employee told Reuters, noting that compensation for non-executive staffers was now capped because of the deal.
Agrawal was expected to receive an estimated $42m if he were terminated within 12 months of a change in control at the social media company, according to the research firm Equilar.
During the meeting, Agrawal urged staff to expect change in the future under new leadership and acknowledged that the company could have performed better over the years.
“Yes, we could have done things differently and better. I could have done things differently. I think about that a lot,” he said.
On Friday, Twitter’s co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey used the platform to write: “I have tried taking a break from Twitter recently, but I must say: the company has always tried to do its best given the information it had. Every decision we made was ultimately my responsibility*. In the cases we were wrong or went too far, we admitted it and worked to correct.”
He added: “A transparent system, both in policy and operations, is the right way to earn trust. Whether it’s owned by a company or an open protocol doesn’t matter _as much as_ deliberately deciding to be open about every decision and why it was made. It’s not easy to do, but it must happen.”
Dorsey also wrote that he did not believe that permanent bans were right, with the exception of those involving criminal activity. “This is why we need a protocol that’s resilient to the layers above,” he explained.
Twitter declined further comment.