Twitter Is on a Collision Course With Europe
From the outside, it might not look like much has changed in the repurposed 1970s office block that serves as Twitter’s European headquarters. But inside, the mood has soured.
Just like in the US, Twitter’s teams across Europe have suffered heavy layoffs. Staff in Dublin, Ireland’s 1 Cumberland Place office, which used to house around 500 Twitter employees, have been using war terminology to describe the past week’s events. People who remain employees are “survivors,” and colleagues who have been let go are “fallen,” says one person with knowledge of the matter, who asked to remain anonymous. The first time employees in Ireland heard from the company’s new owner, Elon Musk, was on November 10, almost two weeks after his takeover. In an email, they were told that they would be required to work from the office 40 hours per week.
There is no centralized list of who has been fired. Instead employees have been looking at their colleagues’ statuses on workplace messaging app Slack to see if they are still working. Dublin is not the only European office to be affected by layoffs. Social media posts show employees in Brussels and London have been let go too. It’s unclear if employees in Twitter’s other European hubs—Hamburg, Madrid, Utrecht, Paris, Berlin and Manchester—have also been affected.
In Europe, a major concern is the fate of Twitter’s six-to-eight person team in Brussels, which worked on European policy and was the main point of contact with regulators working on upcoming legislation that could affect the entire platform. Only two people remain, say two people with knowledge of the matter.
That means Twitter has slashed its team as the European Union introduces landmark new technology rules, says Mathias Vermeulen, director of Brussels-based consultancy AWO. “It’s definitely not a good look at a time when so many obligations are going to be imposed on companies, and at a time where regulators expect meaningful relationships with people based in Brussels.” By comparison, Meta and Google employ between 20 and 30 people each in the city, he says. Twitter did not reply to WIRED’s request to comment.
Even before the takeover, the company was facing a wave of scrutiny across the bloc. Trials against Twitter are pending in France, Germany, and the Netherlands about hate speech, defamation. and privacy. There is also concern in Ireland that Twitter did not follow the country’s strict employment rules while carrying out mass layoffs. Ireland’s Tánaiste (or deputy head of the government), Leo Varadkar, has still not received a collective redundancy notification in relation to potential redundancies at Twitter as required by law, a spokesperson for Ireland’s Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment told WIRED. And there is growing uneasiness in the European Parliament about Musk’s commitment to comply with Europe’s new Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts, now that its policy team in Brussels has been reduced to a skeleton staff.
Europe has been eager to demonstrate that its rules hold weight with the world’s biggest tech platforms, Twitter included. In May, European Commissioner Thierry Breton posted a video on Twitter showing him discussing the Digital Services Act with Elon Musk. “It’s exactly aligned with my thinking,” a deferential Musk said in the clip. Yet Musk’s comments about free speech and layoffs among moderation teams have put Europeans on edge. Trust and Safety, the team responsible for content moderation, has lost 15 percent of employees worldwide, according to Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity.