Twitter has withdrawn from the European Union’s voluntary code to fight online disinformation, a move that could expose the social media platform to legal sanctions and public backlash.
The code, which was launched in June 2020, aims to prevent the spread of false information and harmful content on the internet, as well as to increase transparency and accountability of online platforms. Dozens of tech firms, including Meta, Google, Microsoft and TikTok, have signed up to the code and pledged to cooperate with fact-checkers, track political advertising and empower researchers to study online phenomena.
However, Twitter’s owner, Elon Musk, who took over the platform last October after his company Tesla acquired it, has reportedly reduced moderation at Twitter and allowed an increase in the spread of disinformation. Critics say that Twitter has become a haven for state propaganda accounts, conspiracy theories and extremist groups.
The EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, announced the news of Twitter’s withdrawal on Twitter itself, but warned that the platform will still have to comply with the new Digital Services Act (DSA), which entered into force on May 25. The DSA imposes legal obligations on platforms with more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU to tackle illegal online content and assess and mitigate systemic risks to civic discourse and electoral processes, such as disinformation.
“Twitter leaves EU voluntary Code of Practice against disinformation. But obligations remain. You can run but you can’t hide,” Breton wrote in a tweet. “Beyond voluntary commitments, fighting disinformation will be legal obligation under #DSA as of August 25. Our teams will be ready for enforcement.”
Breton also hinted that Twitter could face fines of up to 6% of its global annual turnover or even a ban from the EU market if it fails to comply with the DSA. “If (Elon Musk) doesn’t take the code seriously, then it’s better that he quits,” an European Commission official was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.
Musk has not confirmed his stance on the code or responded to Breton’s comments. However, he has previously claimed that there is now “less misinformation rather than more” on Twitter since he took over. He has also expressed his disdain for regulators and journalists in general, calling them “annoying” and “corrupt”.
Twitter’s decision to pull out of the EU’s code of practice against disinformation comes at a time when online platforms are facing increasing scrutiny and pressure from governments and civil society groups around the world to combat the spread of harmful content and misinformation that can undermine democracy, public health and social cohesion.
– Twitter pulls out of voluntary EU disinformation code, BBC News, 27 May 2023
– Elon Musk takes Twitter out of the EU’s Disinformation Code of Practice, TechCrunch, 27 May 2023
– Twitter leaves EU code of practice against disinformation, regulators warn, Telangana Today, 28 May 2023