The European Union warned billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk on Tuesday that his soon-to-be acquired online platform Twitter will have to comply with Europe’s new laws curbing the power of big tech.
“Whether on online harassment, the sale of counterfeit products… child pornography, or calls for acts of terrorism… Twitter will have to adapt to our European regulations which do not exist in the United States,” EU commissioner Thierry Breton told AFP.
In buying Twitter, Musk has vowed to take a robust free speech stance on the platform, raising concerns that it will become a host for hate and propaganda and leave the onus on users to combat bullying and misinformation. If Musk carries through on his pledge, he will swiftly be confronted by the Digital Services Act, a major piece of EU legislation ensuring tougher consequences when platforms host banned content.
“No matter the shareholders, Twitter will from now on have to totally adapt to European regulations,” said Breton, who handles the EU’s industrial policy portfolio and was a key backer of the new laws.
“The law will now be very clear, much clearer in Europe than in the United States, with more rules in Europe than in the United States,” he said.
Asked about a possible return of former US president Donald Trump to Twitter, Breton said that the DSA also regulates banishment decisions by setting conditions and possibilities for appeal. Trump was a prolific Twitter user in office but was banned amid fears that his anger over his 2020 election defeat would spur further violence after his supporters stormed the US Capitol.
“We will have very clear, very precise, very democratic, very readable rules for deciding on bans,” Breton said.
“With us, banishment will obviously be possible, in certain cases necessary, but under democratic control.”
Lawmakers are putting the final touches on the Digital Services Act, which will set limits on content, and the Digital Markets Act, which will limit the ways tech giants do business. Both laws, once formally ratified by the bloc’s member states and the European Parliament, are expected to come into force in the coming months.