First Brexit, now X-it: Musk 'considering' pulling platform from EU over probe
Plus: Working from home is 'detached from reality' says world's richest man
Comment Elon Musk is said to be toying with the idea of withdrawing access to X in the European Union rather than go to the effort of complying with the bloc's Digital Services Act.
As The Register reported last week, His Muskiness had a rather public spat on the website with Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for Internal Market, who was simply reminding social media platforms of their content moderation obligations under the law.
This was particularly in light of renewed hostilities between Israel and Hamas, and the potential disinformation campaigns that had begun swirling online. Meta, TikTok, and YouTube were also sent letters.
"Free speech absolutist" Musk's response was sarcastic and juvenile, the kind of smack talk that would get a teen grounded. It would take a couple of days for the adult in the room, CEO Linda Yaccarino, to get a formal response written.
However, by then the EU had indicated that X was now under investigation on account of its designation as Very Large Online Platform under the Digital Services Act, which means it has to follow rules regarding how it handles illegal content among many other things.
The website was given a deadline of October 18 (yesterday) to provide information on the "activation and functioning of X's crisis response protocol" and October 31 for other requested details.
Seeing how X has been gutted to become a husk of what it once was (Twitter), we imagine its crisis response protocol to be staffers running around what operational offices it has left screaming.
Since Musk increasingly appears to see obeying the law as optional for him, it would be very unlike the X owner to actually do anything, and whispers out of the company seem to support this.
That most watertight of sources, "a person familiar with the matter," told Insider that Musk "has discussed simply removing the app's availability in the region, or blocking users in the European Union from accessing it," much like how Meta's Threads declined to launch in the EU because it was unwilling and/or unable to meet the union's onerous data protection and privacy requirements.
The reason why it could be easier to pull the plug than bend to European bureaucracy is because X's moderation teams have been almost entirely dismantled. The platform's Trust and Safety Council, a group of volunteers Twitter once consulted on matters of online harms, was outright deleted.
As a result, Twitter, which was once intensely moderated, has become a wild west of violence, misinformation, disinformation, racism, and hardcore pornography. Many of the website's rules judging what users can and can't post have been screwed up and tossed in the trash.
- X marks the bot: Musk thinks spammers won't pay $1 a year
- Australia threatens X with fine, warns Google, for failure to comply with child abuse handling report regs
- EU threatens X with DSA penalties over spread of Israel-Hamas disinformation
- Musk in hot water with SEC for failure to comply with subpoena
Zooming out, an estimated 6,000 people have been let go since Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion last year and began its pivot to the "everything app" X. That's 80 percent of the former workforce, meaning the platform may simply not have enough boots on the ground to implement what governments require.
The sources claimed Musk "immediately" wanted to limit Twitter's operations to the US, and that has more or less borne out thanks to the company deciding to stop paying office rent in multiple locations.
"That's part of the reason he gutted international teams the first chance he got," they said. According to Insider's sources, Twitter's offices in London and Dublin remain operational, but those in Paris, Madrid, and Berlin have been shut, and "essentially no employees remain in Europe."
While Musk's takeover continues to be observed as one nonsensical business decision after another, withdrawing from Europe could further damage X revenue for what is an already cash-strapped company following the exodus of advertisers for reasons made clear earlier.
A Very Large Online Platform under the Digital Services Act is one that can reach 10 percent of the EU's population. Europe makes up about 9 percent of X's global monthly active user base, though figures from Apptopia say usage has dropped significantly across the region over the past three months by 10-40 percent.
Yet when money is no object – Musk's net worth is $255.9 billion – perhaps it's not important. Insider's sources said the world's richest man has met with Breton on a couple of occasions to hash out what X needs to do, but "he's lost patience with the situation."
"He's very quick to drop the hammer on anyone who he doesn't like," they said, "or who says something that he views as challenging him." This is true – look at how Musk reacted when he found out Bill Gates was shorting Tesla stock.
Basically, no one can say what Musk is prepared to do, though deactivating X in Europe could be a blessing in disguise for the people living there. Brits, however, no longer beholden to EU law after Brexit, may not be so lucky.
Remote working 'detached from reality'
In other MuskWatch news, Elon, who is also Tesla CEO, raged against remote work during the electric car company's Q3 earnings call, describing those who maximize shareholder value from the comfort of their own homes as "detached from reality," which is a bit rich, isn't it?
He said the people who ask "Why doesn't everyone work from home?" give off "real Marie Antoinette vibes." He went on: "How detached from reality does the work-from-home crowd have to be? While they take advantage of those who cannot work from home. Why did I sleep in the factory so many times? Because it mattered."
Musk also claims to be deeply concerned about population collapse yet having a career is so often at odds with the concept of raising children. Working from home allows parents to get their kids to school and be back at their desk before 9am because they don't have to leave at 7:30 to travel across the country.
When you have an infinite money tree like Musk, you can pay other people to raise your children, clean your house, and manage whatever menial tasks you cannot because you're sleeping at the office. However, most people do not have this luxury.
Talk about detached from reality. ®