Elon Musk apologizes to fired Twitter employee over online row

  • by James Clayton
  • North America Technology Reporter


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 to Mr Musk saying: “Your HR manager is unable to confirm whether I’m employed or not”.

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 he had been fired.

Musk followed 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 platform a few hours later to apologize – and appeared to offer Mr Thorleifsson his job back.

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

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


Elon Musk’s deleted tweet

On Monday, Mr Thorleifsson told the BBC exclusively that he could not get a response from Twitter’s human resources department about whether or not he had been fired.

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

Thorleifsson, who sold his creative agency Ueno to Twitter in 2021, did not want to say how much he was paid for the business. However, there is speculation that Twitter would have to pay him a significant amount upon his departure from the company.

Sir. Thorleifsson has muscular dystrophy and has fought in Iceland for better access for wheelchairs.

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

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

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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 see. Not only is his work ethic next level, his talent and humility are world class.”

Sir. Musk responded: “Based on your comment, I just did a video call with Halli to find out what’s real versus what I was told. It’s a long story. Better to talk to people than to 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.

Thorleifsson had previously told the BBC that 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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