Twitter CEO Elon Musk has backtracked, after his disastrous handling of a question from a former Twitter staffer, who was unsure whether he had been fired.

Earlier this week Haraldur Thorleifsson, an Iceland-based Twitter senior director, tweeted at Musk that access to his computer had been cut off nine days earlier, when Twitter reportedly laid off some 200 employees.

Thorleifsson in his tweets said he had received no official confirmation from Twitter that he had been terminated. And he asked Elon Musk in his tweet if he had been fired as “your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am an employee or not.”

Image credit: Elon Musk

Am I fired?

“I opened my computer on Sunday morning nine days ago and saw that the screen was grey and locked, indicating that I had been locked out of my Twitter accounts”, Thorleifsson tweeted.

“After a few days had passed I started reaching out to people, including Elon and the head of HR to ask about my situation.

“The head of HR has since twice emailed me and has not been able to answer whether or not I am an employee at Twitter.”

Frustrated, he tweeted Elon Musk directly on Monday, which gained the attention of the multi billionaire.

Musk responded by asking: “What work have you been doing?”

When Thorleifsson replied “Figma” Musk just responded with two laughing emojis.

Shortly after that exchange Thorleifsson said that Twitter’s Human Resources department had contacted him and said that he had been fired.

Musk mocking

The exchange was widely shared on the platform, and Musk wading in with some replies, and then criticised the fired Twitter director.

“The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealthy) did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm,” Musk tweeted. “Can’t say I have a lot of respect for that.”

Thorleifsson had sold his company, Ueno, a creative design agency, to Twitter in early 2021. He then became a full time Twitter employee until his firing in February.

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

Musk apology

Elon Musk has now issued an apology to Thorleifsson, who is disabled due to muscular dystrophy.

In an apparent change of heart, Musk took to the platform a few hours later to apologise, after photographer Daniel Houghton called out Musk on his response, saying it was “ super disappointing to see” as he had previously worked with Thorleifsson, and his “talent and humility are world class.”

“Based on your comment, I just did a videocall with Halli to figure out what’s real vs what I was told. It’s a long story,” replied Elon Musk to Daniel Houghton. “Better to talk to people than communicate via tweet.”

Musk then offered a more fullsome apology to Thorleifsson.

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

“He is considering remaining at Twitter,” he added.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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