Musk Paints Bleak Picture, Ends Remote Work, in Email to Twitter Employees

SAN FRANCISCO — Two weeks after closing a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter, Elon Musk sent emails to the employees of the social media company late on Wednesday, his first communications with them after mass layoffs and high-pressure drives to create new products.

In two emails seen by The New York Times, Mr. Musk painted a bleak financial picture for Twitter and outlined changes at the company, including an end to its remote work policy and a renewed focus on generating revenue and fighting spam.

“Sorry that this is my first email to the company, but there is no way to sugarcoat the message,” Mr. Musk, 51, wrote in one email. “The economic picture ahead is dire.” Twitter was too heavily dependent on advertising and vulnerable to pullbacks in brand spending, he added, and would need to bolster the revenue it gets from subscriptions.

In another note to employees, he wrote that “the absolute top priority is finding and suspending any verified bots/trolls/spam.”

Mr. Musk’s emails came as Twitter continues to be roiled by his changes. Last week, he cut about 50 percent of the company’s 7,500 employees. At the same time, Mr. Musk has been pushing for product changes that would help Twitter make more money, including promoting a subscription product. He previously said the company was losing $4 million a day.

Twitter, whose communication department has been almost entirely laid off, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bloomberg earlier reported Mr. Musk’s emails.

On Wednesday, three top Twitter executives responsible for security, privacy and compliance also resigned, according to two people familiar with the matter and internal documents seen by The Times.

The departing executives include Lea Kissner, Twitter’s chief information security officer; Damien Kieran, its chief privacy officer; and Marianne Fogarty, its chief compliance officer. Their resignations came a day ahead of a deadline for Twitter to submit a compliance report to the Federal Trade Commission, which is overseeing privacy practices at the company as part of a 2011 settlement.

Twitter has typically reviewed its products for privacy problems before rolling them out to users, to avoid additional fines from the F.T.C. and remain in compliance with the settlement. But because of a rapid pace of product development under Mr. Musk, engineers could be forced to “self-certify” so that their projects meet privacy requirements, one employee wrote in an internal message seen by The Times.

“Elon has shown that he cares only about recouping the losses he’s incurring as a result of failing to get out of his binding obligation to buy Twitter,” the employee wrote. The changes to Twitter’s F.T.C. reviews could result in heavy fines and put people working for the company at risk, the person warned.

“This will put huge amount of personal, professional and legal risk onto engineers: I anticipate that all of you will be pressured by management into pushing out changes that will likely lead to major incidents,” they wrote.

In one of his emails to staff on Wednesday, Mr. Musk told employees that they must return to the office on Thursday and work from there for a minimum of 40 hours a week. Twitter’s work force has been remote since early in the pandemic, and in recent years, its employees have been allowed to choose where they want to live rather than remaining in cities where Twitter has offices.

At some of Mr. Musk’s other companies, including the electric carmaker Tesla and the rocket maker SpaceX, he has also said employees must come into the office to work 40 hours a week.