Under Elon Musk, Twitter must abide by Europe’s heightened new standards for content moderation or else risk fines or even a possible ban, according to a top European Union official.
Thierry Breton, an EU commissioner and a leading digital regulator, tweeted Tuesday that all companies operating in the EU have to play by the bloc’s rules. That includes the Digital Services Act, a forthcoming law Breton and other policymakers announced last week governing social media and other tech platforms.
“Mr. Musk knows this well,” Breton tweeted. “He is familiar with European rules on automotive, and will quickly adapt to the Digital Services Act.”
While the DSA has not yet taken effect, the legislation has been agreed to by the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU member states, paving the way for it to become law in the coming months. One of the first laws of its kind, the DSA sets out new requirements for social media platforms’ handling of illegal content, as well as speech that may be legal but threatens universal priorities such as public health. The largest tech platforms will be required to undergo independent content moderation risk assessments and audits, and to develop systems to act on those risks. The sweeping legislation also restricts some forms of targeted advertising and altogether bans ads targeted to minors.
The coming rules could frustrate Musk as he seeks to pivot to a more laissez-faire Twitter, where content is moderated less, not more. While Musk has recently said Twitter is “obviously … bound by the laws of the country it operates in,” he has also argued for a more permissive approach to content where “we want to be very reluctant to delete things.”
Still, some provisions of the DSA may align more closely with Musk’s vision of greater transparency for Twitter, including having to provide company data to researchers so that they can better understand how the platform’s algorithms work, and giving users explanations for content removals and ways to appeal content decisions.
Companies that violate the DSA face fines of up to 6% of their annual revenue. In an interview with the Financial Times, Breton said Twitter will be no exception to that rule.
“The board [of Twitter] will have to make sure that if it operates in Europe it will have to fulfil the obligations, including moderation, open algorithms, freedom of speech, transparency in rules, obligations to comply with our own rules for hate speech, revenge porn [and] harassment,” Breton told the FT. “If [Twitter] does not comply with our law, there are sanctions — 6 per cent of the revenue and, if they continue, banned from operating in Europe.”