The EU warns Musk: “Twitter’s resources must be strengthened by August 25”

The EU warns Musk: "Twitter's resources must be strengthened by August 25"


Twitter will have to strengthen its resources by August 25 to adapt to the new European legislation on online content. The warning comes from European Commissioner Thierry Breton after a meeting with Elon Musk. “If the technology isn’t ready, they need to have the means to bridge the gap. I spoke specifically about this with Elon Musk,” Breton told the press, following a meeting at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters, which was also attended by the new general manager of the platform, Linda Yaccarino. Last week Musk met the leaders of the Italian government in Rome and among the topics addressed there was also Twitter, which ended up under the spotlight of the EU since the new head of the company relaxed controls and moderation on published content.

Breton is currently in California making sure web giants like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are ready to comply with the Digital Services Act (DSA), which will begin enforcement in late August. This legislation is among the most ambitious for the control of online content since the emergence of social networks. It imposes a long list of rules on platforms, marketplaces and search engines, such as the obligation to act “promptly” to remove any illegal or harmful content as soon as they become aware of it.

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Breton revealed that he had highlighted to Twitter the “certain critical sectors when the regulation will be applicable”, during the meeting that Elon Musk attended via videoconference from New York. It concerns “in particular everything related to the abuse of minors, which is a very sensitive issue for us in Europe, and disinformation during the elections”. The former French finance minister will also meet Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, to ensure compliance of Facebook and Instagram.

But it is his conversation with Musk that attracts attention, as the new owner of Twitter defends an almost unlimited freedom of expression, even when the contents are offensive or feed disinformation, in defiance of European rules. Breton’s visit to Twitter allowed an EU team to carry out a “stress test” to see if the platform is ready, which many observers doubt. Indeed, Musk initiated a massive wave of layoffs that decimated moderation teams. Despite this, last week in Paris, the owner of the “blue bird” assured that Twitter intends to comply with the new European regulation. “I’m not here to tell the company what to do,” Breton said. “I’m the regulator and I have to tell them what the law is.”

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At the Commissioner’s suggestion, the TikTok platform, owned by the Chinese Bytedance and currently at the center of questions about its possible dependence on the power of Beijing, also agreed to undergo a preliminary audit in July. These tests make it possible to verify whether the platforms operate correctly before the entry into force of the text, without consequences in the event of violations. The DSA law provides for very strict regulation. Like the European data protection regulations (GDPR), it could become a global benchmark, while many governments are trying to regulate the diversions of the web.

To respond to this, Twitter, Meta, TikTok and other platforms will need to invest significantly in dedicated personnel and technologies. This is just when many major players in the industry have just made massive layoffs, including on their moderation teams. In April, Brussels unveiled a list of the 19 largest online platforms and search engines that will have to undergo tougher controls starting August 25. With this new text, they will have to provide officials and researchers with unprecedented access to their content moderation algorithms and decisions.

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At the moment, Meta severely restricts access to this data since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, while Twitter and Reddit have introduced steep fees that may deter some researchers. The DSA also grants more rights to users who feel they have been unfairly censored. The platforms could be subject to a fine of up to 6% of their global turnover for non-compliance with the law, or even a complete ban in Europe for repeated violations.


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