After a decision last week to remove Twitter from the EU code for (voluntary) disinformation, reactions were not long in coming. Upon receiving the news, Thierry Breton, the bloc’s industry chief, said Twitter should still comply with EU rules soon enough.
Or, as Monsieur Breton put it (actually tweeted) when referring to the Digital Services Act (DSA), which makes the fight against disinformation a legal requirement from August 25: “You can run, but you can’t hide.”
Twitter is leaving the voluntary EU code of practice against disinformation.
But obligations remain. You can run, but you can’t hide.
In addition to voluntary commitments, combating disinformation will be a legal obligation #DSA from August 25.
Our teams will be ready for enforcement.
— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) May 26, 2023
Commissioner Breton was joined today in his annoyance by the French Minister of Digital Affairs, Jean-Noël Barrot. As reported by PoliticsBarrot told radio network France Info that if Twitter failed to follow the DSA’s new (and mandatory) rules, the company would be expelled from the European Union.
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“Disinformation is one of the greatest threats to our democracies,” said Barrot, translated by Politico. “Twitter, if it repeatedly fails to follow our rules, will be banned from the EU.”
Self-regulatory rules first of its kind
The code of conduct obliges companies to measure their work on combating disinformation and to report regularly on progress. These include demonizing the spread of disinformation, ensuring transparency of political advertisements, strengthening cooperation with fact-checkers and providing researchers with better data.
Google, TikTok, Microsoft and Meta are all voluntary signatories. Twitter was, of course, also part of the group until last week.
There’s been no official statement (or tweet, for that matter) about the decision to leave, but it seems Elon Musk has changed his mind from four years ago, when the industry first agreed on self-regulatory EU rules .
In an interview at that time he stated that, “I think there should be rules for social media to the extent that it negatively impacts the public interest. We can’t knowingly spread fake news, that’s crazy.”
The blocking of accounts on behalf of governments has increased
$44 billion impulse buy or not, there’s been a lot of changes at Twitter since Elon bought it. More than providing accounts of deceased people with little blue ticks, it seems that the new “era of free speech” he proclaimed is very changeable.
Since the acquisition of Musk, Twitter has actually become better comply with requests from government agenciesincluding those of India and Turkey to block journalists, foreign politicians and even poets.
Musk has previously stated that he believes freedom of speech is “what conforms to the law.” However, with the recent withdrawal from the disinformation code of conduct, he has shown that he is not averse to evading regulation for his recently acquired company.
By “freedom of speech” I simply mean that which is in accordance with the law.
I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law.
If people want less freedom of speech, they will ask the government to pass laws to that effect.
Therefore, breaking the law is against the will of the people.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 26, 2022
For once, it’s not a tech lord threatening to leave the EU, but rather the bloc signaling it could kick one out. Let’s see which way the DSA cookie will crumble.