Elon Musk
A former Twitter employee has accused Elon Musk of wrongfully firing him. Wikimedia Commons

Randall Lin, a former Twitter (now X) engineer who claims he was unfairly dismissed, attributes his termination to Elon Musk's concerns about internal leaks.

Lin, who was fired in February 2023, claims an irrationally anxious Elon Musk accused him of violating a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), several months after the billionaire purchased the social media platform.

Speaking to Zoë Schiffer in her newly released book, "Extremely Hardcore: Inside Elon Musk's Twitter," Lin categorically denied allegations of leaking confidential information to the media.

An investigative piece focusing on employee unrest

Schiffer, a former tech reporter for The Verge and Platformer, documented tumultuous events surrounding Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter in October 2022 in her recently released book.

The corporate security team of Twitter, which met Lin, claimed they had evidence pointing towards his involvement in two articles co-written by Schiffer on the news site Platformer. One of the abovementioned articles centred on the firing of another engineer, while the other article was about Musk's X posts being boosted after the Super Bowl.

"I've never talked to Zoë [Schiffer] in my life," Lin told the security team, according to excerpts from the book, as reported by Business Insider. Schiffer corroborates this in her 352-page book, saying that she had never spoken to Lin then. Still, X confiscated Lin's laptop and fired him the following day.

After being fired, Lin told Schiffer that he had initially supported Musk's $44 (£35.04) billion Twitter acquisition, further adding that he wasn't a fan of the laid-back culture under Parag Agrawal. In fact, Lin said he was even an advocate of Musk's decision to fire half of Twitter's staff after taking the helm.

Lin was hired as a machine-learning engineer in 2020 at the age of 29. He told Schiffer this role allowed him to make history alongside a visionary leader like Musk. He was quickly promoted to the role of staff engineer.

Unveiling the truth: What we don't know yet

A year after departing, Lin suspects James Musk (Elon's cousin, who was brought in with his brother Andrew) sparked rumours linking him to leaks behind several media articles, according to Schiffer.

Scared of getting sued, Lin reached out to Schiffer for help. Much to his chagrin, she couldn't tell him much. Nevertheless, she gave him the names of lawyers who were helping other Twitter employees.

Ben Mezrich's book, "Breaking Twitter," which details Musk's acquisition of the platform, mentions reports of James Musk appearing upset at the company's San Francisco headquarters. According to the book published in November 2023, he was concerned about being treated like other employees when it came to termination.

Lin told Schiffer that his own "firing was so devastating to me because I did a lot of things to both appease Elon and shield my people and coworkers from him. The fact that they didn't do that for me sat really wrong with me".

"I realized that I was valued technically but that, somewhere along the way, someone lied about me, and my technical skill wasn't enough to save me," he added. Lin still insists that he wasn't involved in leaking information, Schiffer writes in the book.

Schiffer stated that Lin's story shows the "complicated game" people had to play to exist in Musk's inner orbit.

For instance, Lin claims he used to come into Twitter's San Francisco HQ early and leave after dinner to live up to Musk's high expectations for employees. Lin's cost-saving vision of Twitter creating their own GPUs helped him earn the new CEO's respect and become a regular attendee of meetings that focused on the platform's direction.

This is not the first time former X employees, who represent a growing trend of discontent, have expressed dissatisfaction after Musk's acquisition. To recap, the social media platform is facing a lawsuit over non-payment of annual bonuses. Likewise, X came under fire last month for axing its safety engineers.