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Elon Musk takes Twitter out of the EU’s Disinformation Code of Practice

Twitter has deviated from the EU’s code of conduct on online disinformation, according to the bloc’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton.

one in do Last night – which confirmed earlier reports of Twitter opting out of the EU code – Breton issued the social media platform with a blunt warning: telling Twitter it cannot hide from the legal liability it faces in this area.

“Twitter bypasses EU voluntary code of conduct against disinformation. But the liabilities remain. You can run but you can’t hide,” Britten wrote – a reference to the obligations he is legally required to comply with as a so-called very large online platform (VLOP) under the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA). .

“Beyond voluntary commitments, there will be a legal obligation to fight disinformation under the #DSA by 25 August. Our teams stand ready for enforcement.”

The pan-EU law, which came into force back in November, requires VLOPs like Twitter to assess and mitigate systemic risks of misinformation, such as civil discourse and electoral processes.

The VLOP deadline for compliance with the obligations in the DSA is three months from now.

A request for comment emailed to Twitter’s press office drew an automated reply containing a poop emoji.

Twitter’s previous management signed the platform up to the voluntary EU Code on Disinformation back in 2018. But Twitter’s current owner, billionaire Elon Musk, appears intent on doing battle with the European Union over speech moderation – he dismissed early comments made personally to Breton. That’s when Musk claimed to be on board with the blockchain’s digital rulebook.

This is an expensive battle for Musk. DSA breaches can lead to fines of up to 6% of global annual turnover.

The commission also warned that serious, repeated non-compliance could prompt it to block access to a service — which risks losing access to Twitter with its roughly 440 million consumers.

The original EU disinformation code allowed Twitter to combat false information on its service by targeting affiliate advertising revenue, tackling bots and fake accounts, providing tools for consumers to report misinformation, and empowering researchers to study had committed to taking steps to combat the spread.

In June 2022, the commission unveiled a beefed-up version and announced a transparency center to monitor its compliance.

Importantly, it also announced that sticking to the Code would count towards signatories’ DSA compliance. So Twitter’s deliberate pulling now — with only three months to bite the law — signals that it’s flipping the bird in the block’s broader digital services rulebook.

Before Musk comes along, it’s fair to say that Twitter has never excelled at quashing bot networks or otherwise purging toxic chatter. However, since he took over ownership of the platform following his $44 billion buyout, there has been a clear and calculated backsliding — clearly damaging moves by Musk that steer the platform in the opposite direction. Are. Drastic cuts to moderation staff and steep price hikes such as Twitter charging outside researchers to access data through its API hinder the ability of outsiders to study issues such as misinformation – operational vandalism by Musk To name two of myriad actions that have had the effect of destabilizing truthfulness and encouraging trolls and agents of chaos to run amok on Twitter.

The EU fired an early warning shot at Musk back in November, when he publicly stated that Twitter had a “huge task” ahead of it if it was going to avoid breaching the DSA, which specifically names- Areas under investigation include such as disinfection. followed in February, with another warning that Twitter has failed to meet its reporting commitments under the Disinformation Code. So maybe it was only a matter of time before Musk formally pulled the plug on the technically only bit.

But as noted above, the Code remains voluntary, with the EU linking it to wider DSA compliance – as de facto guidance to meet the latter’s tougher obligations for VLOPs to deal with misinformation. . So Twitter’s deliberate exit increases its regulatory risks — essentially inviting the Commission to approve a tougher rule or risk the law flopping.

As we reported last year, this collision course was always going to have a strong potential for Musk to take to Twitter. It is increasingly looking like an imperative – one that is driven by the billionaire’s goal of furthering a far-right political ideology that demands he help feed misinformation so that the seeds of anti-democracy conspiracy theories. Can fly (ACharlie Warzel recently put it the Atlantic Article: “[Twitter] has definitely changed under [Musk’s] leadership in an alternative social-media platform — one that shelters far-right influencers and advances the interests, prejudices, and conspiracy theories of the right wing of American politics.”)

Musk’s transformation of Twitter into a far-right site could certainly fly in the US; The worst he can do under constitutional protections for free speech is to ruffle some feathers and drive progressive users off his platform (so, basically, hitting himself in the pocket-book – albeit We know he’s got money to burn).

But the trajectory of Musk’s promotional push has put him on a direct collision course with regulators in the European Union, who have put up their stall against anti-democratic manipulation. So be prepared for what looks to be an expensive battle.

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