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The European Union issued a warning to Elon Musk on Tuesday, telling him that he must comply with EU regulations on policing online content, or face severe penalties.
In an interview with the Financial Times Tuesday, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton said that he was giving Musk a “reality check,” adding that Twitter must cooperate with the EU’s rules on content moderation, including the pending Digital Services Act. The prospective legislation would force large tech platforms to take more action to disclose and remove illegal content, including “hate speech,” as noted by The Guardian.
“We welcome everyone,” Breton told the Financial Times. “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 was also stern in warning Musk that the consequences for failing to follow EU rules would be severe, including massive penalties and possibly the site being banned from Europe.
“Anyone who wants to benefit from this market will have to [fulfill] our rules,” Breton said. “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 comply with our own rules for hate speech, revenge porn [and] harassment. If [Twitter] does not comply with our law, there are sanctions — 6 per cent of the revenue and, if they continue, banned from operating in Europe,” he added.
The United Kingdom issued a similar warning to Musk that he must take action to moderate online content, as the country proposes similar laws around online content moderation. A spokesman for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told The Times that “[regardless] of ownership, all social media platforms must be responsible. That includes protecting users from harm on their sites.” The spokesperson did say that it was too early to know what changes, if any, would be made to how the platform operates.
The government of the U.K. has also proposed legislation similar to the EU’s. The Online Safety Bill, which was brought before Parliament last month, will make social media companies more responsible for content that is “legal but harmful,” which includes hate speech.
The EU and U.K.’s warnings come in reaction to Musk’s commitment to open up Twitter as a more inclusive, free speech-oriented platform now that he has bought out the company. “I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech,” Musk said during a TED Talk after he made his initial buyout offer.
“Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square, so it’s really important that people have both the reality and perception that they’re able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.”