Twitter owner Elon Musk backtracked on March 7 2023 after engaging in public mockery of one of the platform’s employees trying to find out whether he still had a job.
Musk had claimed that Haraldur “Halli” Thorleiffson was not doing any “actual work” for Twitter. But after yet another round of public criticism, the tech oligarch changed his tone.
“I would like to apologize to Halli for my misunderstanding of his situation. It was based on things I was told that were untrue or, in some cases, true, but not meaningful,” Musk claimed. “He is considering remaining at Twitter.”
Previously, Musk had referred to Haraldur Thorleifsson at one point as “the worst” in a tweet he later deleted:
Musk also claimed that Thorleiffson, who is based in Iceland and has muscular dystrophy, “did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm.”
He added, “Can’t say I have a lot of respect for that.”
The tech oligarch’s public disparagement of Thorleiffson came after Thorleiffson posted:
9 days ago the access to my work computer was cut, along with about 200 other Twitter employees.
However your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am an employee or not. You’ve not answered my emails.
Maybe if enough people retweet you’ll answer me here?
As Thorleiffson explains on his website, he joined Twitter in 2021 after the platform acquired Ueno, the agency he founded nine years earlier.
Thorleiffson then engaged in an exchange with Musk that received widespread coverage, in which Musk questioned what he had been doing for the company and suggested via emoji that either Thorleiffson or his responses, or both, were laughable:
As CNN recounted, Musk’s treatment of Thorleiffson was only the latest installment of his clashes with workers:
Musk threatened to bail on the deal, then completed the acquisition only to proceed with multiple rounds of layoffs. Hundreds of former Twitter employees are now taking legal action against the company, alleging broken severance promises and, in some cases, discrimination, including against disabled employees.
Thorleiffson made reference to this in a thread he wrote after confirming his firing with Twitter’s human resources department.
“You bought the company and told employees you weren’t firing 75 percent of them. Which you then did,” he wrote — noting that he was using his phone to type because it was easier for him due to his condition. “I wasn’t in the first batch. Or the second or third or fourth. I’m not sure which layoff round I was in there were so many of them. Each one came after you promised the last one was the final one.”