Social Media

Musk, Twitter Must Comply With EU Rules, Official Says

The statement comes in the wake of Musk's $44 billion purchase of the social media platform.

Twitter's future now rests on Elon Musk's shoulders.
Sarah Tew/CNET

While some people wonder what changes might come to Twitter after Elon Musk on Monday struck a deal to purchase the social media platform for $44 billion, the European Commission is warning that Musk "must comply" with its rules, specifically the Digital Services Act.

"Be it cars or social media, any company operating in Europe needs to comply with our rules – regardless of their shareholding. Mr. Musk knows this well," wrote European Commissioner Thierry Breton in a tweet on Tuesday. "He is familiar with European rules on automotive, and will quickly adapt to the Digital Services Act."

The Digital Services Act applies to all major platforms "to make sure their power over public debate is subject to democratically validated rules, in particular on transparency and accountability," a European Commission spokesperson told CNET. "The Commission will keep monitoring developments as they take place to ensure that once DSA enters into force, Twitter, like all other online platforms concerned will follow the rules."

The DSA took a major step forward Saturday when EU lawmakers reached agreement on the basic points that it covers. Next it has to be formally adopted by the EU, and it's expected to go into effect in early 2024.

One of the goals of the DSA is to force platforms like Twitter to crack down on the spread of disinformation. The DSA also prohibits certain kinds of ads on digital platforms, such as targeted ads aimed at children or tailored to people's ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Under the DSA, platforms that reach more than 10% of the EU's population would also be subject to independent audits of the steps they're taking to prevent their systems from being abused, according to a rundown posted by the European Commission. Companies that break the law could face billions of dollars in fines as well as possible damage to the company's reputation.

"With the DSA we help create a safe and accountable online environment," European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

Twitter declined to comment.

Musk has called himself a free speech absolutist and last month refused to block Russian news sources on SpaceX's Starlink service amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine

"Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy," Musk said in a press release. Musk also said in a TED Talk earlier this month that he thinks free speech is when someone is allowed to say something on Twitter another person doesn't like. 

Musk was referring to free speech protections under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, but that only applies to government censorship of speech. Twitter, like other companies, can set its own rules for what can and can't be posted on it, as well as who gets banned from the platform. Users must agree to these terms when they sign up to use the service.

In the past, Musk falsely tweeted that "kids are essentially immune" from COVID-19. Children do catch the virus and can suffer the same effects as adults, though at a lower rate. Despite Twitter's rules about misinformation and COVID-19, Twitter told Axios, the tweet didn't violate its rules against harmful coronavirus misinformation because it wasn't "definitive."

In the workplace, Musk has been accused of firing employees who disagree with him or who reported racial harassment in the workplace

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