EU commissioner for justice to meet Meta and Twitter in Dublin amid layoff concerns

Didier Reynders warns large fines are possible if tech giants do not comply with EU digital and data rules

The European commissioner for justice, Didier Reynders, has warned that large fines are possible if tech companies are unable to comply with EU regulations due to sweeping layoffs of staff, ahead of meetings with Twitter and Meta in Dublin.

A brutal restructuring imposed by magnate Elon Musk following his acquisition of Twitter has halved its global workforce and has seen a wave of employees quit.

The layoffs have raised concerns within the European Commission about the company’s ability to comply with EU rules, including the GDPR data privacy regulation and the new Digital Services Act (DSA), which obliges social networks to remove illegal content.

The risks were hammered home to the commission when Mr Reynders’ team discovered that the Twitter representatives they had been co-ordinating with on the new regulations had been sacked.


More obligations

Mr Reynders told The Irish Times he was struck by “some decisions to fire people engaged in discussion with the commission”.

“It’s quite strange, at the moment where there are more and more obligations and necessity to put into force,” he added.

The DSA entered into force on November 16th. Along with anti-monopoly regulation the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the DSA has imposed wide-ranging content-moderation requirements, advertising restrictions, transparency and reporting obligations across the EU.

Both laws carry the threat of severe penalties in case of breaches, including fines of up to 6 per cent of global turnover in case of the DSA and up to 10 per cent for the DMA.

“We want to be sure that after such a sequence of different decisions to fire the employees, it’s still possible to have competent people, and enough competent people, in those companies to be fully compliant with the regulations,” Mr Reynders said.

Responsibility of compliance

“If it’s not, of course, you know, that we have some possible means to act,” he warned. “Now there are in the DSA very huge possible fines.”

The justice chief is to seek clarity from Twitter and Meta about who will now have the responsibility of compliance with EU regulations following the restructuring when he meets them on Thursday in Dublin during a visit to Ireland.

“It’s too early to say that there is a real problem, but it is logical that we have some concerns, because of the size of the decisions taken – certainly in Twitter, but also in Meta and maybe others,” Mr Reynders said.

The rule-of-law chief is set to meet with representatives of the tech giants as well as Irish Ministers, parliamentary committees and Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon on his visit.

Mr Reynders said that there had been concerns about the ability of Ireland’s Data Protection Commission to enforce EU rules, given the disparity in its resources compared to the large size of the tech multinationals based in Ireland, but that he had been encouraged by Government decisions to increase its budget.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times