Will Elon Musk-owned Twitter Play by EU Rules on Content Moderation?

Following the official acceptance of Elon Musk’s offer to buy Twitter this week, the European Union threatened to penalise or even ban the site if it did not comply with a recently established tech moderation law, the Digital Services Act.

This particular law which requires huge digital companies to more aggressively control the content on their platforms has been temporarily approved by the EU.

Thierry Breton, the European Union’s economics commissioner, said on April 26 that Twitter must comply with the new DSA or it will face sanctions or penalties.

‘Free speech absolutist’

Musk is one of Twitter’s most popular users, and he’s used it for everything from making Tesla and other company announcements to posting memes and criticising his detractors. He has previously described himself as a “free speech absolutist,” and has stated that he wants Twitter to be reformed into a “digital town square” with fewer limits on what users can say.

This idea of “free speech” could have major implications for how content is controlled on Twitter, which is a major worry for regulators attempting to rein in digital behemoths over the spread of hate speech and misinformation on the internet.

Digital Services Act

The European Union this month agreed on new digital legislation that would force tech firms to more aggressively monitor unlawful content on their platforms, or face multibillion-dollar fines.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen called the decision “historic” in a statement. She said: “The DSA will upgrade the ground rules for all online services in the EU. It will ensure that the online environment remains a safe space, safeguarding freedom of expression and opportunities for digital businesses.”

A key provision of the law would restrict how tech giants target users with online ads. The DSA would effectively prohibit platforms from utilising data based on a user’s gender, race, or religion to target them with algorithms. It will also be illegal to target youngsters with advertisements.

Additionally, dark patterns or misleading practices used to persuade consumers to buy certain products or services will also be prohibited.

Under the DSA, new procedures will be needed for IT companies to remove illegal content such as hate speech, incitement to terrorism, and child sexual abuse.

The legislation contains provisions requiring internet companies to be more open about the algorithms they employ to recommend content to customers. In the event of a crisis, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, another provision would oblige major online platforms and search engines to take certain actions.

As per the law, failure to follow the requirements might result in fines of up to 6% of a company’s annual global revenue.

However, the legislation is now awaiting formal approval from EU institutions. It is expected to take effect as soon as 2024.

A Twitter spokesperson earlier said that the company was looking forward to thoroughly analysing the regulation.

As reported earlier by CNBC, the spokesperson said: “We support smart, forward-thinking regulation that balances the need to tackle online harm with protecting the Open Internet — while also understanding that a one-size-fits-all approach fails to consider the diversity of our online environment.”

“It’s Twitter’s top priority to keep people safe online and protect the health of the public conversation, and within the DSA, we welcome the increased focus on healthier digital spaces in the EU,” the spokesperson added.

However, now the situation is quite different after the confirmation of Musk’s Twitter takeover. It’s unclear what the American billionaire intends to do with Twitter at this time and the process of him purchasing the business will most certainly take months, if not years.

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