LONDON — A top European Union official warned Elon Musk on Wednesday that Twitter must strengthen measures to protect users from hate speech, misinformation and other harmful content to avoid breaking new rules that threaten tech giants with hefty fines or even a ban in the 27 nation block.
Thierry Breton, the EU’s digital policy commissioner, told billionaire Tesla’s CEO that the social media platform will have to step up its efforts significantly to comply with the new rules, known as the Digital Services Act, which take effect next year.
The two held a video call to discuss Twitter’s preparation for the law, which requires tech companies to better monitor their platforms for material that promotes terrorism, child sexual abuse, hate speech, and commercial scams, for example.
It’s part of a new digital rulebook that has made Europe the global leader in trying to rein in the power of social media companies, potentially clashing with Musk’s vision for a more untethered Twitter. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also said on Wednesday that an investigation into Musk’s $44 billion purchase was not off the table.
Breton said he was pleased to hear that Musk considers the EU rules “a sensible approach to implement globally”.
“But let’s also be clear that there’s still a tremendous amount of work ahead of us,” Musk said, according to a readout of the call from Breton’s office. “Twitter will need to implement transparent user policies, significantly strengthen content moderation and protect freedom of expression, take a firm stand on disinformation, and limit targeted advertising.”
After Musk, a self-described “freedom of speech” absolutist, bought Twitter a month ago, groups that monitor the platform for racist, anti-Semitic and other toxic expressions, such as the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, say it is on the rise on the global market. de facto digital public square.
Musk has expressed interest in reversing many of Twitter’s past rules designed to combat misinformation, most recently by refraining from enforcing its COVID-19 policy on misinformation. He has already reinstated some high-profile accounts that had violated Twitter’s content rules and had promised a “general amnesty” to reinstate most of the suspended accounts starting this week.
Twitter did not respond to an email request for comment. In a separate blog post on Wednesday, the company said that “human safety” is a top priority and that its trust and security team “continues its diligent work to protect the platform from hateful behavior, abusive behavior and any violation of Twitter’s rules.” ”
However, Musk has laid off half of the company’s 7,500 workforce, along with an untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation. Many others have resigned, including the company’s head of trust and security.
In the talk on Wednesday, Musk agreed to let the EU’s executive committee conduct a “stress test” at Twitter’s headquarters early next year to help the platform comply with the new rules ahead of schedule, the readout said.
That will also help the company prepare for a “comprehensive independent audit” as required by the new law, which aims to protect internet users from illegal content and reduce the proliferation of harmful but legal material.
Violations can lead to huge fines of up to 6% of a company’s annual global turnover or even a ban from operating in the European Union’s internal market.
Along with European regulators, Musk risks colliding with Apple and Google, which power most of the world’s smartphones. Both have strict policies against disinformation, hate speech and other misconduct, which were previously enforced to allow apps like the social media platform Parler to launch from their devices. Apps must also meet certain data security, privacy, and performance standards.
Musk tweeted this week without providing evidence that Apple “threatened to keep Twitter out of the App Store, but won’t tell us why.” Apple has not responded.
Meanwhile, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen backtracked on whether Musk’s purchase of Twitter warrants a government review.
“I was mistaken,” she said at The New York Times DealBook Summit on Wednesday, referring to a TBEN interview this month in which she said there was “no basis” to review the Twitter purchase.
The Secretary of the Treasury oversees the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an interagency committee that examines the national security risks of foreign investment in U.S. companies.
“If there are risks like that, it would be appropriate for the Treasury to look into it,” Yellen told The New York Times.
She declined to confirm whether CFIUS is currently investigating Musk’s Twitter purchase.
Billionaire Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal is the largest shareholder in Twitter after Musk through his investment company.
The Bharat Express News writers Fatima Hussein in Washington and Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island contributed.