Twitter’s Public Policy Boss Departs, Amid Ongoing Layoffs


More concern for US and European regulators as Twitter’s head of public policy departs amid additional layoffs at the platform

Job losses at Elon Musk’s Twitter continues this week, with a notable departure that will further trouble regulators in the US and Europe.

Reuters, cited sources familiar with the matter, reported that Twitter’s public policy chief has left the company, amid additional layoffs to the unit on Thursday.

It comes after Twitter was accused this week by 100 former staffers of various legal violations stemming from Elon Musk’s controversial takeover of the company.

Twitless - twitter down © Fotolia

Mass firings

Musk it should be remembered has axed more 50 percent of Twitter’s internal workforce, reducing its 7,500 workforce to under 2,000 staff.

Musk also dissolved its board of directors, and fired senior management – prompting a mass exodus of executives from the platform.

Hundreds more of Twitter’s remaining staff resigned after refusing to agree to Musk’s ‘hardcore’ email that demanded staff work very long hours and sleep at the office.

Musk also then fired nearly all of Twitter’s external contractors responsible for content moderation on the platform.

Musk also engaged in a very public spat with veteran Twitter engineer Eric Frohnhoefer who publicly disagreed with him.

Musk then fired him.

Musk also disbanded Twitter’s volunteer Trust and Safety Council – one hour before it was due to meet with him.

All of these actions have spooked regulators, concerned about Twitter’s compliance with European and US laws.

Executive dispute

But now Reuters has reported that Dublin-based Sinead McSweeney, global vice president for public policy, has left Twitter, according to two sources.

The public policy team is responsible for interacting with lawmakers and civil society on issues including free speech, privacy and online safety.

This team handles requests from governments and civil rights groups to remove problematic content and sets rules to protect vulnerable users. With fewer staff, backlogs could increase and some policies in development could be ignored, one of the sources told Reuters.

Nick Pickles, senior director for global public policy strategy, has taken over McSweeney’s role, the two sources said.

McSweeney’s departure comes McSweeney had been in dispute with Twitter, after she was locked out of the firm’s IT system after failing to respond within hours to the infamous ‘hardcore’ email from Elon Musk asking staff if they were onboard with the new “Twitter 2.0.”

Sinead McSweeney last month reportedly won a temporary court injunction stopping Twitter from officially firing her, and was reinstated in her job, but didn’t get all the assurances she had sought.

This week the High Court in Dublin was reportedly told that the case has now been settled.

Regulatory concern

McSweeney’s departure will not help Elon Musk and Twitter deal with worried regulators.

Last month a spokesperson for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said the federal agency was closely watching Elon Musk’s moves at Twitter with “deep concern”.

At the same time European Union Commissioner Thierry Breton told Musk the platform faces “huge work ahead” to comply with European regulations on content moderation, removing disinformation and limiting targeted advertising.

Image credit: Elon Musk

Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey waded into the current state of Twitter under the controversial ownership of Elon Musk, when he admitted that Twitter still has significant problems.

According to Reuters, the EU will conduct a “stress test” at Twitter’s headquarters early next year to assess compliance.

A senior German official said on Thursday that the EU should directly monitor Twitter because its erratic behavior under Musk posed a threat to free speech.

One source told Reuters that half of the 30 remaining members of Twitter’s public policy team were cut on Wednesday, implying 15 people were laid off.