EU warns Musk to tighten controls on Twitter ahead of new rules

LONDON (AP) — 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 falling foul of new rules that threaten tech giants. giants with heavy fines or even a ban in the 27-nation bloc.

Thierry Breton, the EU’s commissioner for digital policy, told Tesla’s billionaire CEO that the social networking platform would have to significantly increase efforts to comply with new rules, known as the Digital Services Act, which are due to be introduced in effective next year.

The two held a video call to discuss Twitter’s readiness for the law, which will require tech companies to better police their platforms for material that, for example, promotes terrorism, child sexual abuse, hate speech and commercial fraud.

It’s part of a new digital rulebook that has made Europe a world leader in the push to rein in the power of social media companies, potentially creating a clash with Musk’s vision of a more unrestricted Twitter. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also said 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 reasonable approach to apply on a global basis”.

“But let’s also be clear that there is still tremendous work ahead,” Musk said, according to a reading of the call released by Breton’s office. “Twitter should implement transparent user policies, significantly strengthen content moderation and protect free speech, tackle misinformation decisively and limit targeted advertising.”

FILE - European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton speaks during a signing ceremony on the chip law at EU headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 8, 2022. Breton warned Elon Musk on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, that the Twitter must step up measures to protect users from hate speech, misinformation and other harmful content to avoid falling foul of new rules that threaten the tech giants with hefty fines or even a ban in the 27-nation bloc.  (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)
FILE – European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton speaks during a signing ceremony on the chip law at EU headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 8, 2022. Breton warned Elon Musk on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, that the Twitter must step up measures to protect users from hate speech, misinformation and other harmful content to avoid falling foul of new rules that threaten the tech giants with hefty fines or even a ban in the 27-nation bloc. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

Since Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech stalwart,” bought Twitter a month ago, groups that monitor the platform for racist, anti-Semitic and other toxic speech, such as the Cyber ​​Civil Rights Initiative, say it has grown across the people. facto digital public square.

Musk has expressed interest in overturning many of Twitter’s previous rules aimed at combating disinformation, most recently abandoning enforcement of its COVID-19 disinformation policy. It 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 its top priority and that the trust and security team “continues its diligent work to keep the platform safe from hateful behavior, abusive behavior and any violation of rules of Twitter”.

Musk, however, has laid off half the company’s 7,500-strong workforce, along with an untold number of contractors responsible for holding back content. Many others have resigned, including the company’s head of trust and security.

In the call 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 company said. reading.

This will also help the company prepare for an “extensive independent review” as required by the new law, which aims to protect internet users from illegal content and reduce the spread of harmful but legal material.

Violations could lead to huge fines of up to 6% of a company’s annual global revenue or even a ban from operating in the European Union’s single market.

Along with European regulators, Musk risks running afoul of Apple and Google, which power most of the world’s smartphones. Both have strict policies against misinformation, hate speech and other inappropriate behavior that have been enforced in the past for launching apps like social media platform Parler from their devices. Apps must also meet certain data security, privacy and performance standards.

Musk tweeted without providing details this week that Apple “threatened to hide Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why.” Apple has not commented, but Musk walked back his claim on Wednesday, saying he met with Apple CEO Tim Cook, who “was very clear that Apple never considered” killing Twitter.

Meanwhile, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has pushed back on whether Musk’s purchase of Twitter warrants a government review.

“I misspoke,” she said at the New York Times’ DealBook Summit on Wednesday, referring to an interview with CBS this month in which she said there was “no basis” to reconsider the Twitter purchase.

The Treasury secretary oversees the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an interagency panel that investigates national security risks from foreign investment in American companies.

“If there are such risks, it would be appropriate for the Treasury Department to take a look,” Yellen told the New York Times.

He declined to confirm whether CFIUS is currently investigating Musk’s purchase of Twitter.

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is, through his investment firm, Twitter’s largest shareholder after Musk.

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