Citing sources with knowledge of the departures, the Financial Times reported that the office in Brussels had been closed by the company.

The European Commission is an entity with an ongoing role in EU lawmaking and is close to the seat of power of EU's executive. The Digital Services Act will soon be overseen by the Commission.

If Musk fails to understand the importance of having a policy presence at the heart of the EU to influence lawmakers and law enforcers, he could be seen as making a strategic blunder.

The commission doesn't seem to be taking the development down.

The EU's executive gave the clearest indication yet that it could appoint itself as overseer of the bird site after the latest layoffs revelations.

Musk's regulatory risk in Europe will go up if that happens. The stand-off is actually happening.

Bye bye Brussels?

The last two remaining public policy staffers, Julia Mozer and Dario La Nasa, who were in charge of the company's digital policy in Europe, left last week, leading to the office being completely dissolved.

It was not possible to get an official confirmation of the office closing due to the lack of response from the comms team.

At the time of writing, we were not able to confirm the report. Neither have they announced a change of job or left the company.

According to the newspaper, other policy staffers left the small Brussels office at the beginning of the month, as part of an earlier global headcount purge by Musk, who moved to slash 50% of jobs earlier this month. There have been further layoffs.

Stephen Turner, who had worked at the company for over six years, was one of the employees laid off by Musk.

Turner said that he had retired from the social network. He described himself as "privileged and honoured" to have worked with "the best colleagues" and "great partners" from the beginning.

After 6 years I am officially retired from Twitter✌️

From starting the office in Brussels to building an awesome team it has been an amazing ride. Privileged & honoured to have the best colleagues in the world ❤️great partners, and never a dull moment

Onto the next adventure 🍻

— stephen turner (@sturner) November 14, 2022

Turner could not confirm any more departures from his former office, but he was able to tell us that there had been a total of six staff in Brussels before Musk took over.

The big question is if this is the beginning of the end for the ability to engage with EU rules.

The European Commission will soon start regulating large Internet platforms under the incoming DSA, a major update to the bloc's digital rulebook. The company might be able to avoid centralized enforcement by the Commission itself which is supposed to take on that role only for large online platforms with more than 45 million users. In the case of a business with a main establishment in the EU, the job should be taken care of by the EU member states.

The Commission and other EU regulators are concerned that large-scale layoffs at Twitter will make it hard for it to comply with major EU laws. Which is leading to the adoption of a more aggressive tone towards the social networking site.

Ireland's Data Protection Commission sought a meeting with the company after three of their staff resigned. The EU data protection authorities seem to be keeping their powder dry.

There's more. The Commission set up two voluntary EU codes, one to combat the spread of online hate speech and the other to fight online misinformation.

Under Musk, the previous leadership of the company already looks like a joke.

The seventh evaluation of the Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online shows a slow down in progress compared to the last two reviews, according to the Commission. Including at the social networking site.

The evaluation found that the company removed more than half of the illegal content that was reported to it, but it also found a drop in the number of takedowns. It is not yet known if Musk's approach will boost the performance of hate speech takedowns or accelerate the slide.

He claimed yesterday that hate speech impressions are down by a third compared to the levels seen immediately after he took over. It is a rather qualified boast.

It will be interesting to see if independent evaluations stand up to Musk's claims.

The next Commission review of the EU's hate speech Code isn't officially scheduled to take place for another year. The outcomes will likely be shaped by Musk's actions.

Regulators buckle up

It's clear that disruptions at a number of major tech platforms are causing growing concern inBrussels that its regulators are in for a bumpy ride

Vra Jourov, the EU's vice-president in charge of compliance with the code on disinformation, said she was concerned about the firing of so many staff. Resources are required if you want to detect and take action against propaganda. In the context of Russian misinformation warfare, I expect Twitter to honor its commitments. The fight against fake news and illegal hate speech has been a success with the help of the social networking site.

The Irish Times reported earlier this week that the EU's justice commissioner would be in Dublin to meet with officials from the two companies. He told the newspaper that tech firms could be fined a lot if they don't comply with the rules.

Reynders said that the layoffs are a source of concern for the EU. He said he used the meeting to reiterate the Commission's expectation that the company will comply with both its voluntary commitments and legal requirements.

The Commission has always been clear that it expects online platforms to comply with EU law and rules.

The Commission dialled up its rhetoric after Reynders meeting with the social networking site.

The clearest signal yet that the Commission will designate a very large online platform and oversee its compliance in Brussels is what it said. The Commission will scrutinize the appropriateness of the expertise and resources allocated and the way they organize their compliance function.

It is important for the appropriateness of the expertise and resources allocated.

The Commission said that all companies who offer their services in the Union will have to comply with the rules.

Ensuring enough staff is necessary for a platform to respond effectively to the challenges of moderation in the field of hate speech. We expect platforms to ensure the appropriate resources to deliver on their commitments.

After Reynders' visit, one remaining regional staff member thanked him on the micro-blogging site. Karen White, the head of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, wrote that they appreciated the opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to the DSA and tackling hate speech.

Thank you Commissioner @dreynders for visiting Twitter today. We appreciated the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the DSA and tackling hate speech, as well as continuing our engagement with long-time EU partners.

— Karen White (@karenwhite) November 24, 2022

Collision course

The fact that the firm won't have a local presence to lobby for its interests as lawmakers-cum-regulators take major decisions that will affect its business is baffling.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the Dublin office. Dublin may be Musk's chosen hub for responding to all EU regulatory matters in an attempt to sideline the Commission.

Musk can't pick his preferred hub.

The source said that the one-stop-shop mechanism allowed it to streamline oversight by dealing with a single privacy regulator in Ireland instead of facing a regulatory free-fall. It could be fined by privacy regulators around the EU.

The Irish DPC was told at a meeting last week that it had appointed a new data protection officer who was attached to its Dublin office.

Other Ireland-based employees are crucial to the company's claim to have main establishment in Ireland. If Musk shut down his Dublin operation, it would be impossible for him to present a veneer of compliance as usual, which would lead to an immediate regulatory risk.

There is a possibility of double regulatory trouble for Musk in Europe. There is no clear path for him to avoid a regulatory nightmare.

The business will face an accelerated compliance timetable with oversight kicking in in February next year if the Commission designates it as a VLOP.

It's going to be a car crash with all that compliance requirement.

The DSA scales fines up to six percent of global turnover. The regime allows for fines to be as high as 4% for major breeches. If it isn't bankrupt yet, it's a matter of time before it finishes.

Someone with knowledge of how the company managed compliance issues prior to the Musk takeover suggests the philosophy he is applying amounts to an attitude of "we're above the law"

The EU's shiny new digital rulebook is facing the ultimate'move fast and break things' test, and it's coming very, very fast.

The report was updated to include Karen White's post.

Musk’s impact on content moderation at Twitter faces early test in Germany