Twitter Loses Entire Brussels Office With Regulators Looming
Twitter Inc. has lost its last remaining employees in the regulatory hub of Brussels, at a time when it faces increasing regulatory security.
(Bloomberg) -- Twitter Inc. has lost its last remaining employees in the regulatory hub of Brussels, at a time when it faces increasing scrutiny from lawmakers.
The small office of six employees was cut to two in recent weeks following Elon Musk’s dramatic culling of staff, according to people with knowledge of the exits. The remaining two members left over the past week, after Musk called for staff to commit to a “hardcore working culture.”
The Brussels office was a key hub for Twitter to engage with a deluge of European regulation, much of which has only recently come into force. The social media platform has long battled a perception it has failed to manage hate-speech and disinformation.
Julia Mozer and Dario La Nasa, senior public policy managers and the last staff remaining in the Brussels office, left over the last week, the people said, who declined to comment on the record about staff departures.
Mozer and La Nasa could not be reached for comment. A spokesperson for Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. The Brussels departures were first reported by the Financial Times.
How Musk’s Battle With European Regulation Could Play Out: Q&A
European regulators and officials have been quick to demand Twitter keeps up with its regulatory demands. Hours after billionaire Musk closed his $44 billion deal for the company, European Commissioner Thierry Breton sent a warning to the new owner, calling on the company to “fly by our rules.”
Musk has tried to reassure European regulators that he will follow their laws. The Tesla CEO called Breton the day after taking over Twitter to say the platform would comply with the DSA, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Since then, Musk’s strategy has been to slash Twitter’s workforce in half in sweeping job cuts that included much of the company’s management. Managers in the UK and Ireland have also left, while Twitter head of France announced his departure in a tweet on Sunday.
Speaking after sitting down with Twitter staff in Dublin, the EU’s justice commissioner Didier Reynders said Thursday that the firm must comply with the bloc’s strict data rules. He said they had made solid commitments to keep users’ data safe and stressed that the team in Dublin would be in charge.
“What we have seen in the last few weeks is very concerning,” Reynders said during a press conference. “We have received from shareholders of Twitter and the team in Dublin a clear commitment,” to work on it “but we now need to see concrete measures to be in full compliance.”
Last Friday, French media regulator Arcom sent a letter to Twitter’s European headquarters in Ireland, asking if the social network still had the means to keep ensuring content moderation as per French and EU laws, following job cuts.
The head of Arcom, Roch-Olivier Maistre, expressed his deep concern over Twitter’s ability to maintain a safe environment for its users following the staff cuts. Like other platforms, Twitter is required to fight against misinformation and hate speech under French laws.
Ireland’s data watchdog also held a meeting with representatives from Twitter last week after the company’s data protection officer left the company. Twitter has an acting officer and told the data protection watchdog it would comply with the EU’s data rules. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission said it would “closely” monitor the situation.
The EU’s Digital Services Act gives governments more power to enforce rules governing how tech companies moderate content and to decide when they must take down illegal content. If Musk doesn’t comply, Twitter will face fines of as much as 6% of annual sales and could even be banned.
Compliance will be complex and costly. Next summer, Twitter and all large online platforms will have to add ways for users to flag illegal content and have enough staff to moderate content across the EU. The company will also have to submit a risk assessment showing how they are decreasing legal but harmful content including misinformation and harassment. The commission could force the company to change its algorithm or even raid Twitter’s offices to ensure they are following the new rules.
Twitter also has to make sure it abides by regulation in the works, such as the EU’s AI Act. The current proposal bans the use of algorithms shown to discriminate against people, which could impact Twitter’s face-cropping tools that have been shown to favor thin, young women. The EU’s Child Sexual Abuse Materials proposal could force Twitter to screen private messages for child sexual abuse imagery, or grooming. These are still being debated in the EU.
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