Europe Warns Musk He’s Top of Their Watch List – POLITICO | Popgen Tech


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Spoken by artificial intelligence.

Twitter’s decision to stop enforcing his COVID-19 disinformation policy has put Elon Musk’s back in another spot.

“In my opinion, Twitter is now jumping ahead of the queue of the regulators,” Věra Jourová, the European Commission’s vice president for values ​​and transparency, told POLITICO.

“Mr. Musk seems to want to draw a lot of attention,” she added when asked about the Commission’s position on Twitter’s decision not to remove falsehoods related to the ongoing global pandemic. “I think he has succeeded in attracting the attention of the regulators, also with a recent decision not to judge COVID-related disinformation.”

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton held a video call with the Twitter executive on Wednesday to tell him his company was not ready for the bloc’s upcoming content moderation overhaul, known as the Digital Services Act . They both agreed that the European Commission would conduct a stress test at the social media platform’s headquarters in early 2023.

“There is still great work ahead as Twitter will need to implement transparent user policies, significantly strengthen content moderation and protect freedom of speech, tackle disinformation with determination and limit targeted advertising,” according to a Commission reading of Breton’s call with Musk. The French commissioner also said that Twitter needed sufficient personal and technical capacity to comply with Europe’s upcoming rules, adding that he would monitor its progress.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Since Musk’s takeover of the social media platform in October, nearly all of the company’s content moderation and public policy teams have either been fired or left the company. EU and national regulators have worried that Musk no longer has enough staff to enforce the bloc’s current and future content rules.

Adding to the frustration of regulators is that this latest move on COVID-19-related misinformation is a conscious decision by Musk — not a side effect of layoffs and resignations offset by new hires. This is another step in making Twitter a haven for “free speech absolutism[s],” as the South African-born billionaire also restored previously banned accounts, including those of former US President Donald Trump.

Respect the gentlemen’s agreement

Despite the rhetoric, policymakers currently have little power to force the social media platform to take action against misleading information about the ongoing pandemic. And the Digital Services Act will not apply until early 2024.

The EU’s main vehicle for fighting disinformation, the code of practice, is voluntary. In most cases, COVID-19 misinformation is not illegal, so Twitter does not violate the bloc’s current rules governing online platforms.

However, Jourová, who has played a key role in the EU’s efforts against online falsehoods, said she expected Twitter to “fully respect EU law and honor its obligations” under a Code of Practice on Disinformation, which first signed in 2018 and updated this year – including devoting resources and reporting results on fake news. “Twitter has been a very useful partner in the fight against disinformation and illegal hate speech and that must not change,” she said.

Before its COVID-19 policy change, Twitter previously voluntarily removed content and accounts that posted “demonstrably false or misleading” material that “could lead to significant risk of harm,” including anti-vax profiles. Until May 2022, Twitter – along with Meta, Alphabet and others – also published regular updates within the EU on its actions to remove COVID-19 falsehoods from its platform.

French digital minister Jean-Noël Barrot did not appreciate Twitter’s change of policy on COVID-related disinformation | Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP via Getty Images

“We regret this step taken by Twitter,” a Commission spokesperson said of the change in policy, as proactive steps taken by the social media platform “were effective measures to reduce the spread of disinformation. ”

Under the updated code, the promises made by the company before the Musk takeover include reporting obligations on measures they take, sufficient financial and human resources as well as appropriate internal processes to ensure the implementation of their obligations, “the spokesperson warned A report is still expected in January.

It is not just Brussels that is sharpening its knives. French digital minister Jean-Noël Barrot, who regularly posts warnings on his Twitter account, did not appreciate the change in Twitter’s policy on COVID-related disinformation. “Covid-19 and vaccination misinformation [are] now freely available on Twitter. Another milestone is reached in irresponsibility,” he tweeted.

The French government’s previous digital minister Cédric O had already labeled Twitter (before the Musk takeover) as one of the least cooperative platforms after the company was the last to remove Kremlin-backed RT France and Sputnik.

For Ana Brakus, executive director of Faktograf, a fact-checking organization that is a signatory to the EU’s new code of practice on disinformation, Musk’s ability to change Twitter’s content rules on a whim is a clear example of how regulators cannot take companies. ‘ word for how they tackle potentially harmful content online.

“It’s really a cautionary tale about how sometimes regulators move too slowly, especially compared to these platforms,” ​​she said. “When the leadership of a company wants to implement big changes, it can just do it.”

French President Emmanuel Macron called Twitter’s decision “a big issue” during a state visit to the United States. in an interview with the American broadcaster ABC. “I think we need to take the issue head on, I’m in favor of the exact opposite, more regulation,” he added, explaining that free speech has “limits.”

This article has been updated.


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