Twitter’s Brussels office appears to be the latest casualty of Elon Musk’s takeover of the company, which comes amid accelerating EU regulatory scrutiny of the company and similar platforms.
Since taking over the leadership of the company at the end of October, after the chaotic process of finalizing the purchase of the platform for 44 billion of dollars, IThe American Elon Musk dismantled a large part of the company’s internal structures. He fired first the senior executives, then the large part of the staff and also disbanded the core teams.
So, the teams responsible for AI ethics, human rights and company accessibility have been dismantled for now. Other departments, such as communications, content curation or even public policy, will also be stripped of their staff.
Many employees also chose to leave their posts in response to the evolving situation, including following an email from Mr. Musk announcing that employees should “too tight” to ensure Twitter’s success. The latter is therefore necessary to improve their performance by “working long hours at a fast pace”.
According to Financial Timesthe last two staff members working at Twitter’s headquarters in Brussels also left their posts, after the departure of the other four team members, marking the complete closure of the office.
While it is currently unclear whether this closure is temporary or permanent, it comes at an important time for technology regulation in Europe. Massive online platforms, such as Twitter, are currently tasked with determining how to comply with the Digital Services Act (Digital Services ActDSA), the EU’s new regulation on content moderation, which came into effect last week.
To find out if the layoffs could cause compliance issues for the platform in Europe, it will be necessary to observe how Twitter applies the EU Code of Practice against disinformation. This set of voluntary measures essentially describes the DSA, and Twitter is one of its main signatories.
Since the arrival of Mr. Musk at the head of Twitter, Brussels sent a strong signal to encourage the company not to question its policies.
In response to a tweet saying that “the bird [Twitter] was released”, Mr Musk wrote when the deal went through in October, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “In Europe, the bird flies by our rules”.
Mr Breton also referred to a recording of a meeting with Mr Musk in May, in which the billionaire said DSA was “exactly in phase” in his mind.
Another non-binding law, the Code of Conduct for Combating Hate Speech Online, may be cause for concern along these lines.
The European executive published its seventh assessment on Thursday, and it shows results down from last year.
The Code was adopted in 2016 in agreement with several major platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Microsoft. Since then, other signatories have joined the movement, including messaging service Viber and live streaming platform Twitch.
Over the past year, 64.4% of online reports of hate speech were investigated by companies within 24 hours of receipt, down from 81% in 2021 to 90.4% in 2020. Only one platform, TikTok, increases its individual performance.
While the overall removal rate remained close to last year, increasing from 62.5% in 2021 to 63.6% in 2022, only YouTube improved its rate on an individual level.
On average, 69.6% of content inciting murder or violence against specific groups, and 59.3% of content containing defamatory language or images about specific groups, were removed.
However, the situation has improved in terms of feedback from companies to users, with a figure higher than last year’s rates.
IT companies and trusted flaggers also agreed on a new framework for action to strengthen their cooperation in identifying and removing content. This includes consolidating the dialogue, organizing more frequent meetings and increasing the visibility of their work.
The Commission will now examine how the implementation of the code will contribute to compliance with the content security agreement. The EU executive believes that this could lead to a revision of the agreement in 2023.
[Édité par Anne-Sophie Gayet]