EU Complains Twitter Not Interested in Complying with Censorship Demands

Officials in the European Union (EU) are complaining that Elon Musk’s Twitter appears to have no interest in complying with the bloc’s censorship demands.

EU authorities have raised concerns that Twitter doesn’t seem to be taking the European Commission’s fight against “disinformation” seriously.

According to the governing body, Twitter produced an incomplete report on compliance with its rules on censorship.

Musk’s Twitter lagged behind the likes of Google, Meta, and TikTok in the fight against “disinformation” over the past six months, the European Commission said Thursday.

In a statement Vera Jourova, a European Commission vice president for values and transparency, urged Twitter to get in line.

“I am disappointed to see that Twitter’s report lags behind others and I expect a more serious commitment to their obligations,” Jourova said.

On February 8, the EU launched a Transparency Center that contains the various tech platforms’ reports, including Twitter’s.

The bloc’s Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, who recently reminded Musk to follow the EU’s rules on policing content, didn’t reference Twitter directly, but said that “it comes as no surprise that the degree of quality vary greatly according to the resources companies have allocated to this project.”

There have been significant staffing cuts at Twitter since Musk took over in late October.

Six months ago, before Musk bought Twitter, the social media platform was among 34 entities that signed on to an updated EU anti-disinformation pledge called the Code of Practice on Disinformation.

Along with the recently agreed Digital Services Act—which lets regulators fine tech platforms up to 6 percent of their global turnover for violations—and draft rules on political advertising, the code is part of the European Commission’s “toolbox for fighting the spread of disinformation in the EU,” the bloc’s executive said in a June 2022 release.

While the code is nonbinding, companies that take part can ease some of their compliance requirements under the Digital Services Act, which is expected to kick in around September 2023 for tech platforms with more than 45 million users in the EU, with Twitter likely falling into this category.

Signatories were given six months to implement the commitments and issue implementation reports, which the companies did, with the reports published on February 8.

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The progress reports include data on how much advertising revenue the companies had cut from disinformation actors, instances of manipulative behaviors detected, and how they label political ads.

Twitter was the only one that got singled out for criticism, with the European Commission saying that it lacked data and didn’t contain information on commitments to empower so-called “fact-checkers.”

Subsequent implementation reports are due in six months.

The strengthened code introduces stronger and more granular commitments by tech platforms in the area of disinformation.

This includes broadening participation to smaller platforms to join the censorship fight and expanding the scope to cover new manipulative behaviors like fake accounts and bots that spread disinformation.

It also expands fact-checking and gives researchers more access to platforms’ data, while putting forward a “strong monitoring framework” and regular reporting from tech platforms for how they’re implementing their commitments in the area of disinformation.

Rules such as the code have been criticized by free speech advocates and conservatives as a form of censorship of viewpoints that are outside the mainstream.

They have made such arguments because terms like “disinformation” and “misinformation” are not clearly defined and so pieces of content and accounts can be subjectively blocked by moderators with left-wing viewpoints.

In November, Breton issued a warning to Musk that Twitter could be blocked in the EU if it doesn’t comply with the bloc’s regulations.

“There is still huge work ahead, as Twitter will have to implement transparent user policies, significantly reinforce content moderation, and protect freedom of speech, tackle disinformation with resolve, and limit targeted advertising,” Breton told Musk, according to a readout of a call the two had on November 30, 2022.

Breton told Musk that Twitter will have to significantly increase efforts to comply with the Digital Services Act.

In a post, Breton wrote that Musk should “live up to commitments on code of conduct on disinformation” to “label hoaxes and disinformation in cooperation with fact-checkers,” “promote authoritative sources,” and “demonetize disinformation spread.”

The EU official did not elaborate on what constitutes “disinformation” under the EU’s guidelines.

Breton also wrote that Twitter needs to “reinforce content moderation and protect freedom of speech” to “take down illegal posts.”

An audit of Twitter will also have to be carried out, Breton said, saying that “EU teams will come and check readiness.”

Musk, for his part, agreed to let the European Commission carry out a “stress test” at Twitter’s headquarters at some point in 2023 to help the platform meet the EU’s content policing regulations, according to a readout of the call.

In another video call between Breton and Musk at the end of January, the two discussed Twitter’s compliance with the Digital Services Act.

“I take note of the path that Twitter is committed to take in Europe to comply with #DSA rules,” Breton said in a Twitter post on January 31.

“Next few months will be crucial to transform commitments into reality. Constructive exchange with @elonmusk.”

Musk said in a Twitter post the same day that the EU’s “goals of transparency, accountability, and accuracy of information are aligned with ours.”

The Digital Services Act gives the European Commission more powers to monitor and regulate Big Tech firms designated as “gatekeepers” to comply with the EU’s regulations on content and monopoly activity.

There have been some free speech concerns raised about the Digital Services Act, however.

Some point out that if a single EU member state were to flag a piece of content for removal, it could get blocked in the entire EU, effectively giving certain governments in the bloc the power to control online speech in the entire region.

READ MORE: ‘Woke’ Ex-Twitter Executives Told They May Be Arrested for Election Interference

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By Nick R. Hamilton

Nick has a broad background in journalism, business, and technology. He covers news on cryptocurrency, traditional assets, and economic markets.

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