Brussels has warned Elon Musk that Twitter must comply with EU new digital rules under his ownership or risk large fines or even a ban, setting the stage for a global regulatory battle over the future of the social media platform.
Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, told the Financial Times that Elon Musk must follow the rules on moderating illegal and harmful content online, after Twitter accepted the billionaire’s takeover bid of 44 billion.
Breton said: “We welcome everyone. We are open but on our terms. We at least know what to say to him: ‘Elon, there are rules. You are welcome, but these are our rules. It is not your rules that will apply here. “
Musk’s take-private deal for Twitter could turn Tesla’s CEO, who has used the platform to attack regulators and critics, into a social media baron as millions of people rely on the San Francisco-based news platform.
He said on Monday that “freedom of speech is the foundation of a functioning democracy” and described Twitter as “the digital urban square where issues crucial to the future of humanity are discussed”.
The comments from Breton, one of Europe’s most influential digital regulators, come days after Brussels signed a new piece of legislation that will force Big Tech to more aggressively monitor content online.
In his offer to Twitter, Musk outlined plans to loosen the social media platform’s policies for content moderation, describing himself as an “absolute freedom of speech”. Republican politicians in the United States are hoping the deal could pave the way for Donald Trump to return to Twitter after the former president was banned from repeatedly violating his rules on hate speech and misinformation.
But Breton said he wanted to offer a “reality check” to Musk’s plans for less strict moderation. The EU Commissioner, who was the key to negotiating the new law on digital services, warned that non-compliance by Twitter risked a ban on the platform in Europe.
He said: “Anyone who wants to take advantage of this market will have to comply with our rules. The board [of Twitter] will have to make sure that if it operates in Europe, it will have to fulfill the obligations, including moderation, open algorithms, freedom of speech, transparency in rules, obligations to abide by our own rules of hate speech, revenge porn [and] harassment.”
“If [Twitter] do not comply with our law, there are sanctions – 6 percent of revenues and, if they continue, banned from operating in Europe, “he added.
The Digital Services Act is forcing similar Twitter to reveal to regulators how they tackle content such as disinformation and war propaganda. The groundbreaking rules are part of a larger push from Brussels to limit the power of major online platforms, including Facebook and Google.
Last month, the EU also unveiled the Digital Markets Act, which aims to curb the power of big technology, including a ban on platforms promoting their own services ahead of competitors.