Twitter Will Need to Add Moderators in Europe, Top EU Official Demands
The EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which came into force on Nov. 16, will put larger Internet platforms under the bloc’s online content censorship rules.
European regulators said they are not fond of Twitter’s new flagship premium subscription service, Twitter Blue, and view the new “blue tick” feature as prone to abuse by impersonators on the platform.
The officials said they are also worried about new Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s purge of Twitter executives and staff in charge of content regulation who had a key role in dealing with the platform’s implementation of the new online censorship rules in the bloc.
The European Union Passes New Acts Regulating Online Speech
The DSA and the DMA now give the European Commission even more power to monitor big tech firms and force those designated as “gatekeepers” to obey EU antitrust rules.
Under the new rules, governments in the EU now have enhanced powers to regulate how tech companies should moderate content and whether certain online content is in violation of the law and must be removed.
The two acts are the first major overhaul of the EU laws governing big tech in more than two decades, which will will soon enter into force in early 2023.
Companies will then have six months to comply with the new standards, forcing those wishing to do business in the EU to devote more resources and talent into complying with the DMA and DSA.
Tech companies can be fined billions of euros for failing to comply with the new standards, with repeat offenders being stopped from actions such as mergers and acquisitions or even being totally banned from the EU.
If Twitter itself refuses to comply with the new regulations, the social media service will face fines of as much as 6 percent of annual sales and be forced to depart from the 27-member bloc.
The Irish Data Protection Commission, the EU’s chief privacy enforcer, once fined Twitter $448,360 back in 2020 for violating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), for violating EU privacy and data protection rules.
The EU has also gone after American tech companies in the past, like Amazon, Meta’s WhatsApp, and Alphabet’s Google, levying them with millions in fines.
Eurocrats Threaten Musk Over Content Moderation
Shortly after Musk closed his $44 billion takeover in October, Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, warned in a tweet that Twitter would have to “fly by our rules” if Musk wanted to do business in the EU.
“He is in the process of reducing a certain number of moderators, but he will have to increase them in Europe,” Breton told Franceinfo in an interview, after speaking with Musk recently.
Breton had earlier met with Musk at his Texas office back in May, before he bought the platform, telling him that his advocacy of free speech at Twitter would be limited by the EU’s pending content moderation laws.
The EU commissioner claimed at the time that there was “no disagreement” between the two regarding the approach to content after his meeting with Musk.
Breton said that he assured Musk that he wanted to establish a “working relationship” with Twitter and wanted to discuss how European demands could be implemented at the American-based social media platform.
“He knows perfectly well what the conditions are for Twitter to continue operating in Europe,” Breton said. “He will have to open his algorithms. We will have control, we will have access, people will no longer be able to say rubbish.”
Breton and his colleague Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s executive vice president in charge of competition and digital policy, are further demanding that Musk employ enough staff to enforce the new content rules.
Twitter Attempts to Mollify EU Concerns, With Consequences in the US
Twitter staff met this week with representatives of the Irish Data Protection Commission and are expected to meet with EU officials later this month to discuss the new regulations, the Financial Times reported.
“Europe’s extensive regulations on American tech innovators are a poor fit for the constantly evolving digital economy,” wrote Jake Morabito, director of the communications and technology task force at the American Legislative Exchange Council, in an op-ed in The Orange County Register.
“Instead of relying on government agencies to ‘solve’ competition, decide which smartphone chargers are best, and police social media platforms, consumers should support an alternative system based on free-market principles that permits companies to openly compete for business, incentivize innovation, deliver superior products, and increase consumer choice.”
Morabito said that the European Commission’s intervention in the digital economy unfairly targets U.S.-based firms and is “unprecedented.”
He said it will hamper innovation, violate user privacy, and cause chaos with cybersecurity systems due to their conflict with U.S.-based standards, and noted that if the EU gets its way, “these policies will become the global standard.”