Musk’s Twitter Expected to Face the Strictest EU Content Rules | Tech News

Musk’s Twitter Expected to Face the Strictest EU Content Rules

Twitter and the EU’s executive arm are gearing up for the company to be designated a “very large online platform” under the bloc’s new Digital Services Act.

| Updated on: Feb 07 2023, 11:23 IST
Elon Musk Twitter Bankruptcy Talk: Timeline
1/13 He’s told employees to brace themselves for long hours, that “the road ahead is arduous and will require intense work to succeed,” and said bankruptcy was possible. Here’s how the saga is unfolding: (Bloomberg)
2/13 Oct. 27: Musk takes control- His first act is to fire the Board along with CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, head of legal Vijaya Gadde and Counsel Sean Edgett. Musk forms advisory team that includes celebrity attorney Alex Spiro, VC David Sacks, Neuralink CEO and head of Musk’s family office Jared Birchall, investor Jason Calacanis, and partner of Andreessen Horowitz Sriram Krishnan. (Reuters)
3/13 Oct. 28: Brands begin to take pause- As Musk plans to unban accounts and says he will charge for user verification, advertisers suspend ads. (AFP)
4/13 Oct. 31: Top tweeters protest- Amid murmurings of plans to charge existing verified accounts, author Steven King tweets, “$20 a month to keep my blue check? F**k that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.” (AFP)
5/13 Nov. 1: Teams working around the clock- The product team works over the weekend on Musk’s idea to charge users for blue check marks. A photo of product director Esther Crawford sleeping on the floor of a conference room, trying to make the deadline, goes viral. Meanwhile, managers are asked to make lists of who can be fired. Employees print out their software code for review by Musk and engineers from Tesla, to determine if their contributions are worthy of keeping a job. (REUTERS)
6/13 Nov. 3: Massive layoffs begin- A memo is sent to all employees telling them of imminent layoffs and to watch for an email with the subject line: “Your Role at Twitter.” Badge access to offices is suspended as 3,700 staffers receive word that they’ve been cut. Realizing employees essential for the continuity of the business have been let go by mistake, some are asked to come back. (AP)
7/13 Co-founder EV Williams tweets, “Heart’s out to the tweeps getting laid off today.” Co-founder Jack Dorsey adds, “I realize many are angry with me. I own the responsibility for why everyone is in this situation: I grew the company size too quickly. I apologize for that.” (REUTERS)
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8/13 Nov. 5-6: Musk responds to celebrity protests- Unrest grows on the platform over the weekend, particularly over the issue of impersonator accounts. Actress Valerie Bertinelli starts a movement of people changing their Twitter names to “Elon Musk.” Comedian Kathy Griffin joins the protest, finds her account locked. Then Musk announces, “Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying `parody’ will be permanently suspended.” (AP)
9/13 Nov. 8: Musk sells more Tesla- Despite a previous vow not to sell any more Tesla stock, Musk sells an additional $3.95 billion, bringing the total sold in past year to $36 billion. (REUTERS)
10/13 Nov. 9: Musk Blue tick mark- Blue check mark option becomes available for purchase, and immediately becomes a tool for impersonators. An account masquerading as Nintendo Inc. posts an image of Super Mario holding up a middle finger. (REUTERS)
11/13 Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and a close cadre of advisers are considering a host of changes to the way Twitter is run and makes money. (REUTERS)
12/13 Nov. 10: More key executives quit as Musk warns of bankruptcy- In his first meeting with employees, Musk tells them to brace for 80-hour weeks and requires everyone back in the office full time. He also says bankruptcy for the company is not out of the question if it doesn’t start generating more cash. Several executives in charge of keeping Twitter safe and accountable to its users quit, including chief information security officer Lea Kissner, chief privacy officer Damien Kieran and chief compliance Marianne Fogarty.. (AFP)
13/13 Nov. 11: Verified accounts get “Official” tags- Twitter adds badges that say “offiical” to verified accounts in some places, though confusion abounds. More brands depart the platform. (REUTERS)
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Tech companies regardless of their size have to follow the fundamental rules of the DSA and take down illegal content in all the EU’s 27 countries. (AP)

Elon Musk's Twitter Inc. is expected to fall under the European Union's stricter rules for content moderation despite doubts that the platform was big enough to qualify.

Twitter and the EU's executive arm are gearing up for the company to be designated a “very large online platform” under the bloc's new Digital Services Act, according to people familiar with the matter. That means the company has enough monthly active EU users that it will have to report on how it's reducing harmful posts and could even be forced to change its algorithms by the European Commission.

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For Musk, it means that his stripped-down company will be subject to a much more intrusive regulatory system and could face significant penalties — up to 6% the company's revenue or even a ban from operating in Europe — if it doesn't comply. The EU, meanwhile, would avoid the embarrassment of having one of the world's most influential platforms escape its efforts to tame online content.

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Tech companies regardless of their size have to follow the fundamental rules of the DSA and take down illegal content in all the EU's 27 countries. The EU's largest platforms — with more than 45 million monthly active users — will be designated as very large online platforms, or VLOPs, and will face centralized, tougher scrutiny by the EU's executive arm in Brussels.

Some EU officials had been concerned that Twitter might not have enough users to be designated a VLOP, allowing Musk to dodge the most significant changes to the EU's content moderation rules. At the end of October before Musk bought the social media site, some internally believed the company would fall short of the 45 million user threshold now that the UK has left the EU, according to former employees familiar with the matter.

Even so, the company prepared for VLOP designation, and was also planning an internal audit to ensure it would be in compliance with DSA regulations, the people said. Staff expected user growth and were concerned that reporting fewer than 45 million monthly active users could affect its reputation among advertisers.

Now, Twitter appears likely to hit the 45 million threshold in part because Brussels is looking at a broader definition of active users that could include people who visit the site as well as registered, logged-on users. This could greatly increase the number of users Twitter has in Europe.

Social media sites have until Feb. 17 to report their EU user numbers, after which the executive arm has to designate which sites are very large online platforms. These companies then have until Sept. 1 to follow the DSA's rules.

Platforms designated as VLOPs must send annual reports to the commission showing they have enough content moderators in Europe and are restricting the spread of disinformation. They must also open up their algorithms — for example those that determine what content appears at the top of people's feeds — to regulators for inspection. The executive arm could force companies to change their algorithms or raid their offices. If they don't comply, the commission could levy huge fines or even ban firms from operating in the EU.

Musk has been trying to reassure the commission for months that he is taking the EU's content moderation rules seriously. After a recent video call with Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, Musk tweeted that his goals of “transparency, accountability & accuracy of information are aligned” with the EU. He pointed to Twitter's Community Notes, which allows users to fact-check the service, as one step in that direction.

Musk also has a reputation for changing his mind and a long contentious relationship with US regulators. His mass firings at Twitter and frequent changes to the platform's rules have concerned both EU and US lawmakers interested in Twitter's data and privacy practices.

Breton indicated Twitter is on track to comply with the DSA, but that “the next few months will be crucial to transform commitments into reality,” he said in a statement last week.

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First Published Date: 07 Feb, 10:31 IST