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Twitter shutters Brussels office just as the EU brings stricter content rules into force

Carlos Barria / reuters

Twitter's Brussels office is no more, according to reports, which could make it more difficult for the company to adhere to new European Union regulations regarding content moderation. The number of people employed at the office dropped from six to two after new owner Elon Musk cut the workforce in half. The remaining executives, Julia Mozer and Dario La Nasa, left Twitter last week, according to the Financial Times — just as Musk told employees to commit to his vision for a "hardcore" Twitter 2.0 or leave.

Mozer and La Nasa oversaw public policy for Twitter in Europe. They were in charge of efforts to make sure Twitter complies with the EU's disinformation code as well as the Digital Services Act. The DSA came into force last week and will apply to companies starting in February 2024. It gives EU governments more power over how platforms moderate content and when tech companies have to take down illegal content. Platforms will need to be transparent about the reasons for content moderation decisions. Affected users will have the right to challenge moderation decisions if their content is removed or access to it is restricted.

If Twitter fails to comply with the DSA's rules, it faces potentially heavy penalties. Regulators could fine Twitter up to six percent of its global turnover or even ban the platform. EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton has warned Musk that Twitter needs to abide by the bloc's content regulations.

Twitter no longer has a communications department that can be asked for comment. Musk said early Thursday that the "general idea" is to limit moderation rules to "illegal content." Minutes earlier, he asked users to reply to him with "anything that Twitter needs to address" in terms of child exploitation on the platform. Regulations about which content is legal can vary significantly by jurisdiction (Germany has fairly strict social media edicts, for instance), and having fewer staff dedicated to ensuring Twitter plays by the rules could make it more difficult for the company to do so.

“I am concerned about the news of firing such a vast amount of staff of Twitter in Europe,” Věra Jourová, an EU vice president who is in charge of the bloc's disinformation code, told the Financial Times. “If you want to effectively detect and take action against disinformation and propaganda, this requires resources. Especially in the context of Russian disinformation warfare, I expect Twitter to fully respect the EU law and honor its commitments."

Meanwhile, several Democratic senators have asked the Federal Trade Commission to determine whether the company has broken consumer protection laws or violated a consent decree with the agency. Among other things, the latter requires Twitter to review new features for potential privacy issues. Earlier this month, it was reported that Twitter engineers have to "self-certify" that they're complying with FTC rules and other laws. The FTC recently said it's “tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern.”