Europe’s top official for enforcing digital regulation warned Twitter boss Elon Musk on Wednesday that he must do more to fight disinformation in order to comply with EU law.
The EU commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton, held a video call with Musk and told him “there is still huge work ahead” to bring the platform in line with Brussels’ rules.
Breton posted a brief, silent video clip of his videoconference on Musk’s platform Twitter, but followed it up with a link to a longer statement on the rival Mastodon network.
“I welcome Elon Musk’s statements of intent to get Twitter 2.0 ready for the DSA,” Breton said, referring to the EU Digital Services Act, Brussels’ overarching internet law
“But let’s also be clear that there is still huge work ahead,” he said.
“Twitter will have to implement transparent user policies, significantly reinforce content moderation and protect freedom of speech, tackle disinformation with resolve and limit targeted advertising.”
Musk did not directly reply to Breton’s post but in a separate tweet responding to another user, he agreed that under previous management Twitter had “failed in trust and safety for a very long time”.
“Twitter 2.0 will be far more effective, transparent and even-handed,” he promised.
The DSA was passed last year and will enter into force next year after tech giants have had time to comply with stricter European orders to remove harmful or deliberately misleading content.
Firms that are found not to be in compliance face fines of up to six percent of their global turnover or even a ban on operating in the European Union, a huge market of more than 440 million people.
Tech companies lobbied EU policymakers heavily before the law passed but most say they will strive to comply with the rules — though Musk’s behaviour since buying Twitter last month has raised alarm.
– ‘Worldwide basis’ –
A self-described “free speech absolutist”, Musk has already sacked many of the Twitter employees tasked with content moderation and maintaining ties with Brussels’ regulators.
He has also begun to allow Twitter users banned from the platform for posting disinformation, such as former US president Donald Trump, to return.
On Wednesday, it emerged that Twitter has also stopped enforcing a rule preventing users from sharing misleading information about Covid-19 and vaccine effectiveness.
Such moves represent red flags for Brussels, anxious to know whether a large and influential platform like Twitter will fall into line with the DSA.
“I am pleased to hear that he has read it carefully and considers it as a sensible approach to implement on a worldwide basis,” Breton said in his online statement.
But he followed up with five Mastodon posts laying out the checklist for platforms to meet DSA rules.
These include reinforced content moderation, measures to tackle disinformation, transparent rules against the manipulation of social media content and a limit on targeted advertising.
Finally, it warns Silicon Valley giants to be prepared for a European audit of their procedures. (AFP)