From the outside, it may not seem much changed in the repurposed 1970s office building that serves as Twitter’s European headquarters. But inside, the mood has soured.
As in the US, Twitter teams across Europe have faced heavy layoffs. Dublin staff, the Irish office at 1 Cumberland Place, which used to be home to some 500 Twitter employees, are using wartime terminology to describe the events of the past week. People who remain employees are “survivors” and colleagues who have been released have “fallen,” says one knowledgeable person, who asked to remain anonymous. The first time employees in Ireland heard from the company’s new owner, Elon Musk, was on Nov. 10, nearly two weeks after his acquisition. They were told in an email that they would have to work 40 hours a week in the office.
There is no centralized list of who has been fired. Instead, employees checked their co-workers’ status in the workplace messaging app Slack to see if they’re still working. Dublin is not the only European office affected by layoffs. Social media shows that employees in Brussels and London have also been laid off. It’s unclear if workers 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 team in Brussels, who worked on European policies and were the main point of contact with regulators working on upcoming legislation that could affect the entire platform. There are only two people left, say two knowledgeable people.
That means Twitter has cut its team as the European Union introduces groundbreaking new technology rules, says Mathias Vermeulen, director of Brussels-based consultancy AWO. “It’s definitely not a good view at a time when so many obligations are imposed on companies, and at a time when regulators expect meaningful relationships with people based in Brussels.” By comparison, Meta and Google each have between 20 and 30 people in the city, he says. Twitter did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment.
Even before the acquisition, the company faced a wave of criticism across the bloc. In France, Germany and the Netherlands, lawsuits are pending against Twitter over hate speech and defamation. and privacy. There is also concern in Ireland that Twitter has not followed the country’s strict labor rules when carrying out mass layoffs. Ireland’s Tánaiste (or Deputy Head of Government), Leo Varadkar, has still not received a notice of collective redundancy over potential layoffs from Twitter, as required by law, a spokesman for Ireland’s Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment told WIRED . And there is growing concern in the European Parliament over Musk’s commitment to comply with Europe’s new Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts, now that his policy team in Brussels has been reduced to a skeleton.
Europe has eagerly demonstrated that its rules are in effect on the world’s largest tech platforms, including Twitter. In May, European Commissioner Thierry Breton posted a video on Twitter in which he discusses the Digital Services Act with Elon Musk. “It’s right in line with my thinking,” a reverent Musk said in the clip. Still, Musk’s comments about free speech and layoffs at moderation teams have put Europeans on edge. Trust and Safety, the team in charge of content moderation, has 15 percent lost of employees worldwide, according to Yoel Roth, Twitter’s chief of security and integrity.