Elon Musk apologizes to fired Twitter employee over online row

  • By James Clayton
  • Technology reporter North America

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Halli Thorleifsson

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

It came after worker Halli Thorleifsson tweeted to Mr Musk: “Your head of HR can’t confirm whether or not I’m employed”.

Mr Musk responded by asking, “What kind of work have you done?”

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

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

But apparently Musk changed the platform a few hours later to apologize – and seemed to offer Thorleifsson his job back.

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

“He’s considering staying with Twitter,” he added.

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Elon Musk’s deleted tweet

On Monday, Mr Thorleifsson told the BBC exclusively that he could not get an answer from Twitter’s personnel department as to whether or not he had been sacked.

“My theory is that they made a mistake and are now looking for whatever they can find to make this a ‘reasonable’ dismissal to avoid having to fulfill their contractual obligations,” he said.

Mr Thorleifsson, who sold his creative agency Ueno to Twitter in 2021, would not say how much he paid for the company. However, it is speculated that Twitter would have to pay him a significant amount of money upon his departure from the company.

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

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

Last year he was named person of the year by four media outlets in Iceland.

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Some of Mr Thorleifsson’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 during a turnaround, this is super disappointing to watch. Not only is his work ethic second to none, his talent and humility are world class.”

Musk replied, “Based on your comment, I just had a video call with Halli to find out what’s real versus what I’ve been told. It’s a long story. It’s better to talk to people than to communicate via tweet. “

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

Mr Thorleifsson had previously told the BBC the situation was “strange” and “extremely stressful”.

The BBC has asked Twitter for further comment, but the company did not immediately respond.

James Clayton is the BBC’s North American technology reporter based in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @jamesclayton5.






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