Twitter has closed its entire office in Brussels, according to the Financial Times, cutting ties to 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 staffing cuts ordered by new owner Elon Musk.
Twitter’s office in Brussels, Belgium, closed after its two remaining employees left 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.
Though small—the location counted up to eight employees before Musk took over—the Brussels office played an important role in the firm’s engagement with European policymakers and its compliance with the bloc’s strict digital regulations.
European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová, who is in charge of the bloc’s disinformation code, told the Financial Times she is ”concerned” about Twitter “firing such a vast amount of staff” in Europe.
Twitter will still need to honor its commitments and abide by EU laws, Jourová said, particularly in light of “Russian disinformation warfare.”
“If you want to effectively detect and take action against disinformation and propaganda, this requires resources,” Jourová told the Financial Times. “Twitter has been a very useful partner in the fight against disinformation and illegal hate speech and this must not change.”
What To Watch For
The closure of Twitter’s Brussels hub will potentially strain the firm’s relationship with the European Union, which has some of the strictest rules governing the digital world and is often at the very forefront of global regulation in the field. It will also exacerbate fears the platform, despite Musk’s professed commitment to stamping out disinformation, will be unable to effectively moderate content or tackle disinformation. The departure of Twitter’s two remaining Brussels employees comes a week after the EU’s landmark regulation governing digital services came into force—alongside a voluntary code targeting disinformation—which could have major implications for Twitter and similar services. Compliance is a big deal for companies and European regulators can dish out hefty fines for those not towing the line, up to 6% of global revenue in extreme cases.
Musk quickly set about cutting Twitter’s headcount immediately after taking control of the company. The billionaire fired senior leadership and Twitter’s entire board and laid off around half of the workforce during the early stages of his leadership. He later fired staffers 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, though multiple reports suggest key teams monitoring critical systems have few or no employees left.
Moderating hate speech and disinformation has been a key concern with Musk’s bid to takeover 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 vowed to make changes. Since he took over, the firm’s former safety lead Yoel Roth said there has been a “surge in hateful conduct.” Roth’s comment is in line with early reports on hate speech on the platform, which Bloomberg said spiked following the acquisition.
The closure of Twitter’s Brussels office comes amid reports of broader staffing woes in the firm’s key 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 over Twitter’s staffing levels and whether it will be able to ensure compliance with the bloc’s rules on data protection, for which infractions can garner fines of up to 4% of global turnover.
$191.4 billion. That’s the estimated net worth of Elon Musk, according to Forbes’ real-time tracker. The figure makes Musk, known for cofounding and leading electric car maker Tesla, rocket producer SpaceX and tunneling firm Boring Company, the richest person on the planet. Musk purchased Twitter for $44 billion in October.
Closure of Twitter Brussels office prompts online safety fears (Financial Times)