Twitter has told employees that the company’s office buildings will be temporarily closed, with immediate effect.

It did not give a reason for the move.

The announcement comes amid reports that large numbers of staff were quitting after new owner Elon Musk called on them to sign up for “long hours at high intensity” or leave.

The message went on to say: “Please continue to comply with company policy by refraining from discussing confidential company information on social media, with the press or elsewhere.”

The reports have been met with consternation from unions with Prospect, the union for tech workers, asking Twitter UK to meet regarding the treatment of its employees.

“We will not let these makings of a digital P&O pass unchecked,” said Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect, referring to the ferry operator’s decision to sack staff and replace them with agency workers earlier this year.

“We are urgently seeking a meeting with Twitter UK Ltd to discuss how it will manage its collective redundancy consultation, ensure a fair and transparent process, and meet its duty of care and legal obligations to employees, including those with particular needs.

“Prospect will continue to do everything we can to support our members at Twitter. Big tech barons are not above the law and we will hold Twitter to legal account where possible.”

There are signs that large numbers of workers have resigned because they have not accepted Mr Musk’s new terms.

One former Twitter employee, who wished to remain anonymous, told the BBC: “I think when the dust clears today, there’s probably going to be less than 2,000 people left.”

They claimed everyone in their team had been sacked.

“The manager of that team, his manager was terminated. And then that manager’s manager was terminated. The person above that was one of the execs terminated on the first day. So there’s nobody left in that chain of command.”

Another person said they had resigned even though they had been prepared to work long hours.

“I didn’t want to work for someone who threatened us over email multiple times about only ‘exceptional tweeps should work here’ when I was already working 60-70 hours weekly,” they said.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the BBC.

In response to staff leaving, former Twitter vice-president Bruce Daisley told the BBC there were former Twitter engineers claiming the social media platform could “fail as soon as Monday”.

“There’s a large number of features that really seem to be predicated on having engineers on site,” he said.

“If those engineers have gone, then it does threaten the sustainability of the product.

“So, there’s a lot of people posting where else you can find them online.”

This week, Mr Musk told Twitter staff that they had to commit to working long hours and would “need to be extremely hardcore” or leave the company.

In an email to staff, the firm’s new owner said workers should agree to the pledge if they wanted to stay, the Washington Post reported.

Those who did not sign up by Thursday 17 November would be given three months’ severance pay, Mr Musk said.

Earlier this month the company said that it was cutting about 50% of its workforce.

Employees have been tweeting using the hashtag #LoveWhereYouWorked and a saluting emoji to show they were leaving the firm.

Despite the turmoil at the company, Mr Musk tweeted on Friday: “And… we just hit another all-time high in Twitter usage lol.”

Satirist Frank Lesser replied: “‘Rome has never been this brightly lit at night!’ – Nero” – a reference to the Roman emperor who is reputed to have fiddled while Rome burned.

Before Mr Musk took control of Twitter the company had about 7,500 staff. The firm was also reported to have employed thousands of contract workers, the majority of whom are understood to have been laid off.

The world’s richest person became Twitter’s chief executive after buying the firm last month in a $44bn (£37bn) deal.

Mr Musk seemed unconcerned about reports that Twitter was on the brink of shutting down, tweeting: “The best people are staying, so I’m not super worried”.

In separate posts he tweeted a skull and crossbones emoji and a meme showing a gravestone with the Twitter logo on it.

pic.twitter.com/rbwbsLA1ZG

27 October 2022

Musk completes his $44bn (£38.1bn) takeover of Twitter, immediately firing a number of the company’s top executives and tweeting “the bird is freed”.

Before officially taking charge of the company, Musk changed his Twitter profile to read “Chief Twit” and turned up to Twitter HQ in San Francisco carrying a sink, saying: “Let that sink in!”

28 October

Musk responds to concerns that he will loosen regulations at the company governing hate speech and misinformation by saying he’s “not yet made any changes”. He adds that a new “content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints” will meet before any policy changes.

29 October

After a surge in tweets containing racist language, Twitter’s head of trust and safety says: “Hateful conduct has no place here.” Yoel Roth says the company is taking action against users “involved in this trolling campaign” to make Twitter safe and welcoming for everyone.

30 October

Musk tweets an article containing a number of inaccuracies about an attack on the husband of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi by a hammer-wielding intruder. The site has a history of publishing inaccurate stories and Musk later deletes the tweet after a backlash.

31 October

With just over a week to go before the US midterm elections, Musk responds to questions about whether he will reinstate former President Donald Trump’s account on Twitter by tweeting: “If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if Trump is coming back on this platform, Twitter would be minting money!”

Later that day, Musk attended a halloween party in New York and posed for photographs wearing a “Devil’s champion” costume.

1 November

Following reports that Twitter will begin charging users to have verified accounts, Musk responds to criticism from author Stephen King by saying: “We need to pay the bills somehow!”.

4 November

Employees at the company begin receiving emails entitled “Your Role at Twitter” informing them whether they have lost their jobs. Responding to news about the layoffs, Musk says “unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day”.

Yoel Roth, the head of trust and safety, said 50% of the company’s nearly 8,000 employees had been laid off but sought to reassure users and advertisers that the platform’s moderation capacity remained intact.

5 November

Twitter co-founder and ex-CEO Jack Dorsey breaks his silence over the Musk takeover to apologise to staff who have lost their jobs, saying: “I own the responsibility for why everyone is in this situation: I grew the company size too quickly.”

6 November

Musk announces that Twitter accounts impersonating people without being clearly labelled a parody will be permanently suspended – a change to the previous process when accounts were given a warning first.

A number of accounts that changed their name to “Elon Musk” and mocked the billionaire had already been suspended or placed behind a warning sign.

9 November

In his first email to Twitter staff, Musk warns that the “economic picture ahead is dire” and adds: “Without significant subscription revenue, there is a good chance Twitter will not survive the upcoming economic downturn.”

Meanwhile, after the launch of the $8-a-month Twitter Blue subscription, which gives paying users a blue tick, a slew of parody accounts that appear to be verified emerge, including a fake George W Bush account that tweets: “I miss killing Iraqis”.

10 November

More high-profile staff quit, including head of trust and safety Yoel Roth and chief security officer Lea Kissner.

11 November

The option to subscribe to Twitter Blue disappears after its initial bumpy roll-out. Musk later confirms that the launch of the service has been put back to the end of November “to make sure that it is rock solid”.

12 November

Reports in US media say thousands of contractors who had been working for Twitter have had their contracts terminated. Technology news site Platformer says as many as 80% of its 5,500 contractor workforce were laid off in the move but the company made no official announcement.

16 November

In a late-night email to all Twitter staff, Musk says employees must commit to a “hardcore” culture of working “long hours at high intensity” or leave the company.

17 November

In a surprise announcement, Twitter says its company offices will be closed temporarily. The move comes amid reports that large numbers of Twitter staff had resigned.

Responding to fears the platform was about to shut down due to losing key staff, Musk tweeted: “The best people are staying, so I’m not super worried.”

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WATCH: Ros Atkins On… Elon Musk and Twitter

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