Haraldur Thorleifsson, an innovation team lead for the social media giant, said Monday that he’d lost access to his work computer 9 days before. Yet his emails to company representatives regarding his employment status went unanswered, he said, and the head of human resources was “not able to confirm if I am an employee or not.”
So he tagged Musk in his tweet, hoping to flag the attention of the person in charge.
In subsequent posts, Thorleifsson added that he has been working for Twitter from Reykjavik, Iceland, ever since the company’s 2021 acquisition of Ueno, a business he founded.
Musk responded hours later. “What work have you been doing?” he asked.
Thorleifsson replied by first noting he “would need to break confidentiality” to answer, to which Musk responded succinctly, “It’s approved, you go ahead.”
When Thorleifsson proceeded to detail his recent work at the company, including some efforts he credited with saving Twitter significant amounts of money, Musk replied with a series of skeptical questions.
He punctuated the exchange with two laughing emoji before proceeding to mock the man, who has muscular dystrophy, in other threads.
“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 replied to one user, who had described the CEO’s exchange with Thorleifsson as “the most entertaining exit interview I’ve ever witnessed.”
Musk added: “Was he fired? No, you can’t be fired if you weren’t working in the first place!”
Thorleifsson stayed on message as Musk trolled him elsewhere on the platform. In a lengthy thread, he recounted the circumstances that led to his employment at Twitter, which included selling Ueno as the effects of his muscular dystrophy worsened, diminishing the use of his hands.
After Musk acquired Twitter in 2022, Thorleifsson talked to his manager every week about what to focus on and then proceeded to do all of those things, he recalled. He said he also regularly asked HR about his job description and responsibilities ― but never received a reply.
“To be clear. You have every right to lay me off. That’s totally fair and fine,” he tweeted at Musk. “But usually people are told when that happens. Maybe with a letter or something.”
Instead of addressing Thorleifsson’s claims, Musk piled on with another tweet Tuesday as the Twitter spat began to go viral. In the ultimate bit of irony, Musk attacked Thorleifsson’s credibility, saying he “has a prominent, active Twitter account and is wealthy.”
Musk is the richest person alive and is notoriously sensitive about his own Twitter engagement.
Meanwhile, Thorleifsson had posted a picture of himself as he welcomed all the “new friends” he’d gained amid the feud.
“I don’t mind the bad words,” he tweeted. “They honestly don’t bother me. If they help you feel better then you can use them. Enjoy your day!”
Musk wound up apologizing to Thorleifsson late Tuesday, tweeting a contrite and carefully worded statement that said he had video-called Thorleifsson instead of communicating via tweet.
“I would like to apologize to Halli for my misunderstanding of his situation,” Musk wrote. “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.”