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Elon Musk says Twitter will comply with EU content rules
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Elon Musk says Twitter will comply with EU content rules

3 min. 10.05.2022
The EU is one of the fiercest regulators of major tech firms, and has previously launched scathing attacks on Mark Zuckerberg
Elon Musk poses as he arrives on the red carpet for the Axel Springer Awards ceremony, in Berlin
Elon Musk poses as he arrives on the red carpet for the Axel Springer Awards ceremony, in Berlin
Photo credit: AFP

One of the leading officials from the European Union paid a visit to Elon Musk in Texas, and came away convinced the billionaire will keep Twitter Inc. on the right side of lawmakers.

After meeting Musk on Monday, Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, said that he and the Tesla Inc. chief executive officer agreed on everything.

“To tell you the truth, there was definitely no disagreement -- none,” Breton told Bloomberg in an interview.

Musk said Twitter would comply with the European Union’s rules on content if he completes his proposed takeover, despite his plans to loosen restrictions on the network.

Breton is one of the first major tech regulators to discuss Musk’s proposed $44 billion takeover of Twitter -- at least publicly. The EU is one of the fiercest regulators of major tech firms, and has previously launched scathing attacks on prominent founders including Mark Zuckerberg.

Breton previously warned that Twitter, even after a change of ownership, would have to comply with the EU’s new digital content rules.

Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist, has criticised Twitter’s content moderation policies, saying he will focus on “free speech” values. 

However, Musk is aligned with the EU especially on the idea of making the algorithms more transparent, and on requiring companies to have consistent rules about banning people from platforms.

“I agree with everything you said, really,” Musk said in a video post after the two met in Texas. “I think we’re very much on the same line.”

The European Union agreed on the Digital Services Act last month, aiming to force tech platforms to better police content. The rules mainly focus on taking down illegal content like terrorist posts and hate speech, but could also affect tech companies’ algorithms to down-rank harmful posts, such as messages harassing others or promoting eating disorders.

Twitter has become more active in flagging and taking down content in recent years due to increasing public scrutiny. The platform famously banned former U.S. President Donald Trump from the site last year for inciting violence. The move provoked condemnation from conservatives in the U.S., who argued the ban hindered free speech.

Musk’s purchase of the platform could mark a shift in how Twitter mediates content disputes, eschewing rapid take-downs in favor of promoting a broadly open platform.

Musk however has said he believes the platform should follow the rules of each country it operates in. “In my view, Twitter should match the laws of the country,” Musk said in April at a TED conference before Twitter accepted his bid to buy the platform. 

Breton confirmed that Musk understood that the EU’s rules require that what is illegal offline should be illegal online. Breton told Bloomberg that Musk “was very comfortable” with what Europe was doing. “He was pretty much aligned with the philosophy of what we have done in Europe.”

It is yet to be seen to what extent European regulators will push platforms like Twitter to do more on harmful content including disinformation and harassment. Very large platforms like Twitter will be required to submit annual reports to the EU detailing what they are doing to combat legal but harmful content on their platform. 

If companies are not doing enough, the EU could require companies down-rank certain content or change their algorithms. 

There’s also the prospect of major financial penalties if Musk and the EU disagree. If the company doesn’t comply with the DSA, the EU can issue fines of as much as 6% of a company’s annual revenue and even ban the platform from operating in the bloc.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.


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