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Twitter’s hectic overhaul under Musk puts world’s regulators on alert


Inc.’s frenetic overhaul under new owner is attracting attention from senior politicians and regulators worldwide, who are telling the world’s richest man they’re ready to hold his new acquisition to data protection, content moderation and employment law.

In the days since the SpaceX and Tesla Chief Executive Officer took charge, Musk has ordered thousands of job cuts and changed a string of central policies at San Francisco-based . There have also been senior voluntary departures: Since Wednesday, Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth, Chief Information Security Officer Lea Kissner, Chief Privacy Officer Damien Kieran and Chief Compliance Officer Marianne Fogarty have resigned.

In a rare intervention on Thursday, the US Federal Trade Commission said that it was tracking developments with “deep concern” and said that “no CEO or company is above the law.”

The FTC regulates how handles user data and has been overseeing the company’s privacy and data security compliance since it put the company under a consent order in 2011, which requires Twitter to submit to independent audits every other year.

Under Musk’s ownership, Twitter is subject to FTC oversight until at least 2042, meaning that any new products or changes to privacy and data policies are subject to the agency’s scrutiny.

“All of this is extremely dangerous for our users,” a Twitter employee said in a Slack message viewed by Bloomberg. Their identity is not known to Bloomberg. “Also, given that the FTC can (and will!) fine Twitter BILLIONS of dollars pursuant to the FTC Consent Order, extremely detrimental to Twitter’s longevity as a platform. Our users deserve so much better than this.”


Politicians and watchdogs across the Atlantic have also made it clear that they’re watching closely. It’s not gone unnoticed that Twitter offices globally suffered rapid layoffs, and daily rule changes have unleashed a parade of spoofs and impersonations.

Twitter will meet with the Irish Data Protection Commission next week.

“In light of the coverage over the last 24 hours about the departure of senior staff, including the data protection officer, we want to establish with Twitter that they are going to be continuing to make decisions from their Irish office,” Graham Doyle, deputy commissioner at the authority, told Bloomberg by phone. Europe’s GDPR rules state must have a data protection officer.

On Friday, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority said “at a time when the law and regulation are asking more of these platforms in terms of the protections they afford, we think it’s important that any changes in personnel don’t undermine their ability to safeguard users and advertisers,” according to a spokesman.

Kevin Bakhurst, a director at Ofcom, which is set to regulate Twitter under Online Safety legislation, said the platform “seem to be losing some of their most important and talented people, including from the content moderation and public policy teams.”

“I don’t understand the strategy at all, as online safety regulation is imminent in the UK and the EU,” Bakhurst said in a post on LinkedIn. “These are just the kind of people they need.”

UK business minister Grant Shapps told the Prospect union he’d been following Twitter job cuts closely and that he’d write to the company “to seek reassurance that they will be following all relevant statutory requirements.”

Texas-based billionaire Musk has repeatedly said Twitter will champion “free speech.” He’ll have to do that while navigating a gauntlet of new online safety laws around the world concerning moderation and hate speech.

The European Union recently signed the Digital Services Act into law, governing how tech moderate content and setting out fines of as much as 6% of annual sales for breaches.

EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton tweeted to warn Musk hours after he closed on the $44 billion deal last month that the company must “fly by our rules.” Musk previously told Breton he agreed “with everything” the senior EU official had said in a discussion about digital regulation.

Late on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron echoed Breton’s approach, asking Musk on Twitter “will the bird protect our children?” in reference to the site’s logo. Musk replied “absolument”.


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