Elon Musk warns of upcoming EU social media law

BRUSSELS — A senior European Union official told Elon Musk on Tuesday that Twitter Inc. needs to do more in the coming months to prepare for the bloc’s new social media regulations.

Thierry Breton, the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner, told Mr Musk during a video call that there are only a few months left before major online platforms like Twitter need to be fully compliant with the Digital Services Act. Mr Musk has previously said he intends to comply with the EU’s new rules.

“The next few months will be crucial in turning commitments into reality,” Mr Breton said, according to a summary of the call provided by his office. “We need to see progress towards full DSA compliance. My team will be closely following the work of Twitter and all other online platforms.”

The conversation with Mr Musk was constructive and more detailed than previous meetings, said an aide of Mr Breton. The counselor said the conversation lasted more than an hour.

According to the summary of the request, the European Commission, which is responsible for enforcing the DSA, expects to carry out a so-called stress test on Twitter in the coming weeks. Such a test could include a meeting between Twitter and Commission officials to examine in detail what elements of Twitter’s practices are or are not compliant with the new legislation, Mr Breton’s adviser said.

After Tuesday’s discussion with Mr. Breton, Mr. Musk wrote on Twitter that the “EU’s objectives on transparency, accountability and accuracy of information are aligned with ours”. He also said the company’s crowdsourced fact-checking feature called Community Notes would be “transformative” when it comes to ensuring accurate information.

Messrs Musk and Breton have had similar discussions in the past. Last autumn, Mr Breton said he had informed Mr Musk that Twitter would have to make significant changes to comply with new EU legislation. The DSA will oblige major social media platforms and search engines, including Twitter, to quickly tackle illegal content and conduct regular risk assessments starting later this year.

The law provides for hefty fines for non-compliance and the ability to block a platform’s services for certain repeated violations.

Officials in Europe last year raised questions about how Twitter could comply with new EU law, after widespread layoffs and departures left the company’s Brussels office empty and the ranks of staff responsible for content moderation were thinned.

DSA requirements for large social media companies include maintaining systems to remove content deemed illegal by national European governments and providing tools for users to appeal if they believe that any material they have posted has been improperly removed. It also requires regular external audits.

Mr Musk has said that Twitter should comply with local laws but generally shouldn’t go beyond that when moderating online content.

Twitter has reinstated a number of user accounts in recent months, including that of former President Donald Trump, who were previously suspended for the content they posted.

Write to Kim Mackrael at [email protected]

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