Twitter reportedly exits Brussels—Europe’s regulatory hub—amid concerns over Musk’s content moderation plans | Popgen Tech
Twitter has closed its entire office in Brussels, according to the Financial Timessevering ties with one of the world’s most important regulatory hubs as fears grow the firm will struggle to moderate content or even function after the brutal staff cuts ordered by new owner Elon Musk.
Twitter’s office in Brussels, Belgium, closed after its two remaining employees last week, the Financial Times reported, citing five people familiar with the situation.
Julia Mozer and Dario La Nasa, who led Twitter’s digital policy in Europe, reportedly survived Musk’s initial round of layoffs but left the company after he issued an ultimatum for employees to work long hours at high intensity.
It is not clear whether the duo resigned or were laid off, the Financial Times said.
Although small — the location numbered up to eight employees before Musk took over — the Brussels office has played an important role in the firm’s engagement with European policymakers and its compliance with the bloc’s strict digital regulations.
The vice-president of the European Commission, Věra Jourová, who is in charge of the bloc’s disinformation code, told the Financial Times she is “concerned” about Twitter laying off “such a large number of staff” in Europe.
Twitter will still have to fulfill its obligations and abide by EU laws, Jourová said, especially in light of “Russian disinformation warfare”.
“If you want to effectively detect and act against disinformation and propaganda, it requires resources,” Jourová told the Financial Times. “Twitter has been a very useful partner in the fight against disinformation and illegal hate speech and that must not change.”
What to watch out for
The closure of Twitter’s Brussels hub would potentially hamper the firm’s relationship with the European Union, which has some of the strictest rules governing the digital world and is often at the forefront of global regulation in the field. It will also exacerbate fears that the platform, despite Musk’s purported commitment to rooting out disinformation, will be unable to effectively moderate content or tackle disinformation. The departures of Twitter’s two remaining Brussels employees come a week after the EU’s landmark regulation on digital services took effect – along with a voluntary code targeting disinformation – that could have major implications for Twitter and similar services. Compliance is a big problem for companies and European regulators can hand out hefty fines for those who don’t toe the line, up to 6% of global revenue in extreme cases.
Musk quickly began reducing Twitter’s headcount immediately after taking control of the company. The billionaire fired senior leadership and Twitter’s entire board and laid off about half the workforce during the early stages of his leadership. He later fired staff members who disagreed with him, sometimes publicly, and many more reportedly left after he issued an ultimatum to work harder for longer. Estimates of the number of remaining employees vary, although several reports suggest that key teams monitoring critical systems have few or no employees left.
Moderating hate speech and disinformation has been a core problem with Musk’s attempt to take over Twitter. The billionaire, a self-proclaimed free speech “absolutist,” has reinstated former President Donald Trump and previously criticized the platform’s policies on moderation and promised to make changes. Since taking over, the firm’s former security chief Yoel Roth said there has been an “increase in hateful behavior.” Roth’s comment is consistent with early reports of hate speech on the platform, which according to Bloomberg increased after the acquisition.
The closure of Twitter’s Brussels office comes amid reports of wider staffing problems in the firm’s main European outposts and elsewhere around the world. Particularly notable are departures from Twitter’s office in Dublin, Ireland, a key office for the firm’s compliance with the EU’s strict General Data Protection Regulation. Ireland’s data regulator has already raised concerns about Twitter’s staffing levels and whether it will be able to enforce compliance with the bloc’s rules on data protection, for which breaches can attract fines of up to 4% of global turnover.
$191.4 billion. This is the estimated net worth of Elon Musk, according to Forbes‘real time tracker. The figure makes Musk, known for co-founding and leading electric car maker Tesla, rocket maker SpaceX and tunneling company Boring Company, the richest person on the planet. Musk bought Twitter in October for $44 billion.
‘#RIP Twitter’ trends as Musk’s eventual staff reportedly causes exodus and office closures – here’s what you need to know (Forbes)
Closure of Twitter office in Brussels sparks fears over online security (Financial Times)
Twitter Exodus Hits Teams With Regulatory, Content Issues Worldwide (WSJ)
Twitter is on a collision course with Europe (Wired)