July 22, 2024

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Twitter Withdraws from EU Disinformation Code, Faces New Legal Obligations

In a surprising move, Twitter has announced its withdrawal from the European Union’s voluntary code aimed at combatting disinformation. Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, shared the news on Twitter itself, while also cautioning that new legislation would make compliance mandatory for the company.

Breton asserted, “Obligations remain. You can run, but you can’t hide.” He further emphasized that Twitter would be legally obligated to combat disinformation within the EU starting August 25th, adding that the necessary enforcement measures would be in place by then.

Despite the EU’s statement, Twitter has neither confirmed its position on the code nor responded to requests for comment.

The EU’s disinformation code, launched in June of the previous year, has secured the participation of numerous tech firms, both major and minor. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, along with TikTok, Google, Microsoft, and Twitch, are among the signatories. The code’s primary objectives include preventing the exploitation of disinformation and fake news for financial gain, increasing transparency, and mitigating the proliferation of bots and fake accounts.

Participating companies have the freedom to choose specific commitments, such as collaborating with fact-checkers or monitoring political advertisements.

Under the leadership of Elon Musk, Twitter’s moderation efforts have reportedly diminished, a factor critics attribute to the platform’s increased dissemination of disinformation. Former Twitter employees and experts argue that a significant number of specialists dedicated to combating coordinated disinformation campaigns have either resigned or been laid off.

The BBC recently uncovered hundreds of state-sponsored Russian and Chinese propaganda accounts flourishing on the platform.

However, Musk himself claims that since assuming control of Twitter in October of last year, there has been “less misinformation rather than more.”

In addition to the voluntary code, the EU has introduced the Digital Services Act (DSA), legislation that compels companies to take stronger action against illegal online content.

Starting August 25th, platforms with over 45 million monthly active users in the EU, including Twitter, will be legally required to adhere to DSA regulations. Consequently, Twitter will need to establish mechanisms for users to report illegal content, respond promptly to notifications, and implement measures to address the propagation of disinformation.

An anonymous European Commission official, as quoted by AFP news agency, commented, “If (Elon Musk) doesn’t take the code seriously, then it’s better that he quits.”

Twitter’s decision to withdraw from the voluntary code raises questions about its commitment to combatting disinformation within the EU. As the company faces new legal obligations under the forthcoming Digital Services Act, the efficacy of its efforts to curb the spread of false information and maintain a healthy online environment will undoubtedly be under scrutiny.