Apr 26, 2022 - World

EU targets Elon Musk with Twitter moderation warning

Picture of Elon Musk
Photo: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

The EU on Tuesday said that Twitter must "quickly adapt" to its rules on content moderation after Elon Musk, who has been vocal about freedom of speech on the platform, agreed to buy the company for $44 billion.

What they're saying: "Be it cars or social media, any company operating in Europe needs to comply with our rules — regardless of their shareholding," Thierry Breton, the EU's internal market commissioner, tweeted. "Mr Musk knows this well."

  • Musk "is familiar with European rules on automotive, and will quickly adapt to the Digital Services Act," he added.
  • "We welcome everyone. We are open but on our conditions. At least we know what to tell him: ‘Elon, there are rules. You are welcome but these are our rules. It’s not your rules which will apply here,'" Breton told the Financial Times.

State of play: Breton told FT that if Twitter's board doesn't comply with the EU's regulations, there will be sanctions: "6% of the revenue and, if they continue, banned from operating in Europe."

Context: The goal of the EU's Digital Services Act, which was finalized last week and is not yet in effect, is "to create a safer digital space in which the fundamental rights of all users of digital services are protected."

  • The law would also address the spread of misinformation and require transparency, as well as limit some kinds of targeted ads.

Thought bubble, from Axios' Ashley Gold: Musk's purchase of Twitter and goal to rid the platform of what he sees as unnecessary content moderation rules comes just as Europe exerts more control over online content, setting up a potential clash very emblematic of the two countries' divergent approaches.

The big picture: Musk has said that he believes Twitter should follow the laws of the countries it operates in and otherwise not regulate users' speech, suggesting that he would loosen the platform's content moderation policies.

  • "Is someone you don't like allowed to say something you don't like? If that is the case, then we have free speech. It's damn annoying, but that is the sign of a healthy, functioning free speech situation," he said at the TED2022 conference.
  • He said on Monday that "free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy," adding that Twitter is "the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated."

Between the lines: Twitter's content moderation rules have resulted in figures, such as former President Trump, being banned from the platform due to misinformation.

Go deeper: Everything Elon Musk wants to change about Twitter

Go deeper