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EU commissioner warns Musk Twitter must ‘fly by our rules’


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European Commissioner Thierry Breton took to Twitter to send a warning to the social-media platform’s new owner, hours after billionaire Elon Musk closed his $44 billion deal for the company.

“In Europe, the bird will fly by our rules,” Breton, the EU’s internal markets commissioner, said on Friday in response to Musk’s Tweet: “the bird is freed.”

Earlier this year, Breton had also reminded Musk that his free-speech focus on Twitter would be limited by the EU’s own content-moderation laws. Breton traveled to Texas in May where the two said there was “no disagreement” over their approach to content.

On Thursday, Musk posted a note to advertisers seeking to reassure them he doesn’t want Twitter to become a “free-for-all hellscape,” full of violent or dangerous posts.

The EU’s Digital Services Act gives governments more power enforce rules governing how tech companies moderate content and to decide when they must take down illegal content. If Musk doesn’t comply, Twitter will face fines of as much as 6% of annual sales and could even be banned.

Musk completed the deal late Thursday, changing the executive ranks and taking over as chief executive officer, people familiar with the matter said. Musk also intends to do away with permanent bans on users because he doesn’t believe in lifelong prohibitions, potentially allowing people such as former US President Donald Trump to rejoin, one of the people said.

Policing tech

The EU has not been afraid of taking on big US tech companies in the past. Ireland’s data protection watchdog fined Twitter €450 000 ($448,360) in 2020 for violating the GDPR, the EU’s landmark data protection rules. Amazon.com, Meta’s WhatsApp and Alphabet’s Google have been slapped with fines in the millions of euros.

The European Commission now has even more power to police big tech with the DSA and its sister legislation, the Digital Markets Act, which forces tech companies designated as “gatekeepers” to abide by new antitrust rules.

Both of these acts officially became law this month, meaning companies could be fined billions of euros for failing to comply as soon as next year. Repeat offenders could be blocked from mergers and acquisitions or be banned from operating in the union entirely.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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