Elon Musk apologizes to Twitter employee fired over online argument

  • By James Clayton
  • North American Technology Journalist


Halli Thorleifsson

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

It came after worker Halli Thorleifsson tweeted at Mr Musk saying: ‘Your HR manager is unable to confirm if I am employed or not.’

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

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

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

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

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

“He plans to stay on Twitter,” he added.


Elon Musk’s deleted tweet

On Monday, Mr Thorleifsson told the BBC exclusively that he could not get an answer from Twitter’s human resources department on 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 it a ’cause’ termination 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 was paid for the business. However, there is speculation that Twitter is set to pay him a hefty sum when he leaves the company.

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

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

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

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

Photographer Daniel Houghton tweeted “As someone who worked directly with Halli Thorleifsson during a turnaround, it’s very disappointing to see. Not only is her work ethic next level, but her talent and humility are world class.”

Mr Musk replied: “Based on your comment, I just did a video call with Halli to figure out what is real versus what I was told. It’s a long story. Better talk to people than communicate via tweet.”

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

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

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

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

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