London Twitter HQ abandoned as Musk locks staff out and unbans accounts - though no decision made on Trump

18 November 2022, 18:29 | Updated: 18 November 2022, 19:39

The Twitter office in Piccadilly Circus appeared abandoned
The Twitter office in Piccadilly Circus appeared abandoned. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Will Taylor

Twitter's London headquarters appears to have been abandoned as disgruntled employees quit en masse in the wake of Elon Musk's chaotic takeover.

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The multibillionaire had already locked out Twitter staff from their offices until Monday.

Potentially more than 1,000 people have quit after he issued an ultimatum about a "hardcore" work ethic.

And in a stark new move, Mr Musk said the platform would allow freedom of speech but not "freedom of reach" - apparently allowing hate speech that can only be found if it is searched for, while high-profile figures like Jordan Peterson have been reinstated.

A decision on whether Donald Trump is allowed back on is yet to be taken.

On Friday, the business's UK office in Piccadilly Circus was deserted, and signs related to the company had been taken down.

Workers for the two other businesses in the building were unsure if staff had been told to leave it, with one telling MailOnline: "That's a matter for security. We don’t know what happened."

Read more: Elon Musk locks Twitter staff out of offices as hundreds of people quit their jobs

Twitter's office in London appeared abandoned, with branding removed
Twitter's office in London appeared abandoned, with branding removed. Picture: Getty

A source said there was "no trace of Twitter anywhere".

Mr Musk asked his 117m followers what the platform "should do next" after the controversy emerged.

Then, after tweeting "Freedom Fridays", he said: "Kathie [sic] Griffin, Jorden Peterson & Babylon Bee have been reinstated.

"Trump decision has not yet been made."

Ms Griffin, a comedian, was banned earlier in November for impersonating Mr Musk. Babylon Bee, a conservative-leaning website, was banned after referring to a transgender US government official called Rachel Levine as "man of the year".

Mr Peterson, the Canadian psychologist, was banned after a post about transgender actor Elliot Page.

"I'm back," Mr Peterson said, thanking Mr Musk and uploading an image of Jack Nicholson breaking down the door in The Shining.

Mr Trump remains banned after the 2021 Capitol riots.

Fortune estimated about 1,000 to 1,200 employees have resigned - about a third of the remaining workforce - after Mr Musk made new demands of those he didn't sack earlier in his time in charge.

He fired about half of the 7,500 worldwide Twitter staff, and content moderators were among those culled, after he bought the platform.

Top executives were among the first to be shown the door, and he sacked a small team of engineers who either took issue with him in public or on the Slack messaging system used by the company.

Now he has shut existing workers out of their offices without explanation as he demanded "long hours at high intensity" and told them to be "extremely hardcore" if they are going to build "Twitter 2.0".

Read more: Elon Musk warns Twitter employees that 'bankruptcy isn’t out of the question'

He set up a deadline of 5pm US Eastern Time on Thursday for them to agree to the demands or leave Twitter with three months' severance pay.

There has been speculation about what the knock-on effect to the platform will be after the resignations, sackings and lockout.

Among those to quit in the wake of Mr Musk's demands were critical engineers, it was reported.

Elon Musk's Twitter takeover has proven chaotic
Elon Musk's Twitter takeover has proven chaotic. Picture: Alamy

Mr Musk did row back on a demand they return to the office, saying on Thursday they could still work from home as long as they regularly had face-to-face meetings with colleagues.

But a new message from the company has told employees they would have their access to offices revoked until Monday.

An email sent to staff read: "Hi, Effective immediately, we are temporarily closing our office buildings and all badge access will be suspended. Offices will reopen on Monday, November 21st.

"Thank you for your flexibility. Please continue to comply with company policy by refraining from discussing confidential company information on social media, with the press or elsewhere.

"We look forward to working with you on Twitter's exciting future."

For some workers, that was the trigger to join their past colleagues in leaving, and they have been vocal online about their departures.

"To all the Tweeps who decided to make today your last day: thanks for being incredible teammates through the ups and downs," one employee wrote.

"I can't wait to see what you do next."

General secretary of the Prospect union - which represents Twitter employees - Mike Clancy said: "We are deeply concerned by further reports of the treatment of Twitter employees.

"From removal of remote working, demanding commitment to long hours and unsustainable working practices, and now locking employees out of their offices.

"Big tech barons are not above the law and we will hold Twitter to legal account where possible."

He added: "We are urgently seeking a meeting with Twitter UK Ltd to discuss how it will manage its collective redundancy consultation, ensure a fair and transparent process, and meet its duty of care and legal obligations to employees, including those with particular needs."

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