Musk apologizes to Twitter worker over online spat – BBC News

  • by James Clayton
  • North America technology reporter

image Caption,

Hallie Thorleifson

Twitter CEO Elon Musk has apologized for a conversation he had on the platform with an employee.

It came after activist Hallie Thorleifson tweeted to Mr Musk: “Your head of HR has not been able to confirm whether I am employed”.

Mr Musk responded by asking: “What are you working on?”

After a series of follow-up questions and answers Mr Thorleifson said he had received an email confirming he had been fired.

Mr Musk followed up that Twitter conversation with a tweet on Tuesday describing Mr Thorleifsson as “the worst” before deleting it.

But in an apparent change of heart, Mr Musk took to the stage a few hours later to apologize – and appeared to offer Mr Thorleifson his job back.

“I want to apologize to Halli for my misunderstanding of her position. It was based on things I was told were untrue or were true in some cases, but not meaningful.”

“He is considering staying on Twitter,” he added.

image Caption,

Elon Musk’s deleted tweet

On Monday, Mr Thorleifsson told the BBC exclusively that he had not received a reply from Twitter’s human resources department on whether he had been sacked.

“My theory is that they made a mistake and are now looking for anything they can find to avoid fulfilling their contractual obligations to fire it “for cause.”

Thorleifsson, who sold his creative agency Ueno to Twitter in 2021, did not want to reveal how much he was paid for the company. However, there are speculations that Twitter will have to pay him a substantial amount upon his departure from the firm.

Mr Thorleifsson has muscular dystrophy and has campaigned for better wheelchair access in Iceland.

According to local reports, when he sold his company to Twitter, he intentionally structured the deal to pay a higher tax rate to the Icelandic government.

Last year he was voted Person of the Year in Iceland by four media outlets.

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Some of Mr. Thorleifson’s former colleagues could not understand why he had been singled out for such public criticism.

Photographer Daniel Houghton tweeted “As someone who has worked directly with Halli Thorleifsson, this is deeply disappointing to see. Not only is her work ethic next level, her talent and humility are world class.”

Mr Musk replied: “Based on your comment, I did a video call with Hali to find out what was real vs what I was told. It’s a long story. It’s better to talk to people instead.”

After apologizing, Mr Musk said Mr Thorleifson was considering coming back to Twitter. The BBC has not spoken to Mr Thorleifson since Mr Musk’s apology.

Mr Thorleifson had previously told the BBC the situation was “strange” and “extremely tense”.

The BBC has sought further comment from Twitter but the company did not immediately respond.

James Clayton is the BBC’s North America technology reporter based in San Francisco. follow him on twitter @jamesclayton5,

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