Elon Musk makes fun of a disabled Twitter employee
During the exchange of tweets, Musk demanded that employee Haraldur “Halli” Thorleifsson provide photos to prove the work done and belittled and ridiculed his role in the company. He also went so far as to say that disability is just an excuse to collect pay without doing your job. Brave words for a guy whose 24/7 job seems to be tweeting and sabotaging others’ work. In the midst of an exchange on Twitter, HR finally confirmed: Hallie’s Twitter days are over.
Haraldur Thorleifsson, who founded digital agency Ueno in 2014 and acquired by Twitter in 2021, found himself in Musk’s chaos just over a week ago when he suddenly lost access to his work computer. Founder Ueno stated that he asked Twitter’s human resources department if he still had a job, but was told that it was not known. After sending emails to Musk himself, Haraldur decided to do the thing that almost always guarantees a response. He tweeted to the CEO of Twitter.
“Dear @elonmusk, 9 days ago my work computer was shut down, along with about 200 other Twitter employees,” Halli wrote on Monday afternoon. “However, your head of HR is unable to confirm whether I am an employee or not. You didn’t reply to my emails. Maybe if enough people retweet you’ll reply to me here?”
Dear @elonmusk 👋
9 days ago the access to my work computer was cut, along with about 200 other Twitter employees.
However your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am an employee or not. You've not answered my emails.
Maybe if enough people retweet you'll answer me here?
— Halli (@iamharaldur) March 6, 2023
Hallie’s tweet got tens of thousands of retweets and likes, so it managed to catch Musk’s attention, which experience shows can lead to good or bad things. Mostly the latter. In his newsletter Platformer he informedthat on Monday morning the head of Twitter was “furious” after a developer error caused links and media on Twitter to stop working, so it’s safe to assume that the head of Twit wasn’t having a good day.
Musk started by asking Thorleifsson, who works remotely from Iceland, what kind of job he was doing. Haraldur stated that he couldn’t talk about it publicly without prior approval from Twitter’s lawyers, which Musk simply gave him in a follow-up tweet. The employee went on to list the things he was responsible for in the company, including saving money on SaaS contracts (Software as a Service, in this case, the Figma design tool), hiring for all project work, and queuing projects that teams reduced by layoffs could do, as well as work on encouraging younger target groups to use Twitter, because according to research, the demographics of the site are aging.
Incorrigible micro-manager and self-proclaimed troll Elon Musk proceeded to ask for more details, then responded to Thorleifsson with two emojis that were once spelled ROTFL. In a follow-up tweet, Musk began bombarding Hallie with more questions and demanded photos and documents proving the work done.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 7, 2023
Halli told Musk he couldn’t provide evidence because Twitter had long ago locked his computer, but added that he could provide documents if Musk gave him back access to the device. After talking to Musk for about an hour, Thorleifsson tweeted that HR had suddenly “wonderfully” after more than a week finally confirmed to him that he was no longer an employee of the company.
Musk, meanwhile, apparently dissatisfied with the insufficient ridicule of the former employee, a few hours after the first exchange of tweets decided to further slander Thorleifsson. The Twitter CEO publicly revealed Hallie’s disability – he suffers from a type of muscular dystrophy called dystrophinopathy – and said he couldn’t really be fired because what he was doing wasn’t a job at all. So let’s trash all of Stephen Hawking’s work because he couldn’t type!
“The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealthy) didn’t do any real work and was using a disability that prevented him from typing as an excuse, while also tweeting like he was busy. I can’t say I have much respect for that attitude,” Musk tweeted. “But has he been released? No, you can’t be fired if you haven’t worked at all!”
But was he fired? No, you can’t be fired if you weren’t working in the first place!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 7, 2023
On Tuesday morning, Thorleifsson responded to Musk’s comments about his health and work. After pointing out that Musk was disclosing sensitive health information, he explained what muscular dystrophy was doing to his body. Halli said he started using a wheelchair when he was 25 and now, 20 years later, needs help getting in and out of bed and using the toilet.
Referring to Musk’s comments about the work of his hands, Thorleifsson wrote that the HR department knows that he is unable to do manual work for long periods of time, but he can write for one or two hours.
“That wasn’t a problem in Twitter 1.0 because I was a senior director and my job was mainly to help the teams move forward, giving them strategic and tactical guidance,” Thorleifsson stated. “Writing this on my phone btw. It’s easier because I only use one finger.”
But as I told HR (I'm assuming that's the confidential health information you are sharing) I can't work as a hands on designer for the reasons outlined above.
I'm typing this on my phone btw. It's easier for because I only need to use one finger.
— Halli (@iamharaldur) March 7, 2023
As for being fired, Thorleifsson said he had no problem with that, as these things happen all the time. He added that it would be a good idea for companies to inform employees of layoffs, “but apparently this is currently optional on Twitter.” His next step is to find out if Twitter will pay him what’s written in his contract.
According to TechCrunch, Thorleifsson and other founders of companies that Twitter acquired before Musk acquired it were supposed to be on the “not to be shot” list because it was considered too expensive to pay them severance payments due under the contracts. Companies were often bought together with “human resources”, and their founders and employees only changed the principal and payer to Twitter. I imagine that after such massive and chaotic layoffs in the last few months, these teams simply stopped working. Former product manager and Squad founder Esther Crawford, who made headlines in November for sleeping on the floor of her Twitter office, was also reportedly on the safe list.
When your team is pushing round the clock to make deadlines sometimes you #SleepWhereYouWork https://t.co/UBGKYPilbD
— Esther Crawford ✨ (@esthercrawford) November 2, 2022
She was fired last week along with Breaker founder Leah Culver and Revue founder Martijn de Kuijper.
The proceeds from the sale of Ueno propelled Halli to the top of the Icelandic taxpayer list, and he also gained recognition in his home country as one of the most active philanthropists. Among his projects is Ramp Up, a non-profit organization building ramps for people with disabilities across the country. Haraldur by four independent media has been found person of the year 2022 in Iceland.
It’s been a hard year in many ways. Many ups and downs.
But on a positive note I was awarded/voted Person of the Year by four of the main networks, programs and publications in Iceland.
Which to a shy and awkward kid feels a bit strange but also quite nice.
Happy new year! pic.twitter.com/1c9kytL4I9
— Halli (@iamharaldur) December 31, 2022
Elon Musk, on the other hand, behaves like a caricature incarnation of a 19th-century capitalist who runs around the company, challenges employees and fires them like Vince McMahon yelling “You’re fired!” in the wrestling market right in the face. Not so long ago, he reportedly fired one of the engineers for the fact that Twitter algorithms found Joe Biden’s tweet more attractive than Elon Musk’s. But even for him, he showed off hypocrisy when, from the position of the second richest in the world, he accused the creator of a startup successful enough to buy him Twitter of being “independently wealthy.” Halli pointed it out to him when he wrote that he actually came up with everything himself, but Musk’s father had a famous emerald mine. Musk reportedly walks around Twitter headquarters with two heavily built bodyguards. Somehow it does not surprise me.