LONDON – Elon Musk’s decision many top journalists suspended from twitter drew condemnation not only in the United States, but further afield, where reactions to the movement in Europe have highlighted what an impending showdown with the billionaire could be.
Leaders across the continent lined up to criticize the move on Friday, increasing local pressure on Twitter’s new owner, signaling that efforts to rebuild the social media platform could leave it on the path to conflict with Europe’s tough new rules targeting Big Tech.
Musk Detained journalists extradited After a Twitter poll earlier on Saturday, it had already received rebukes from the European Union and the United Nations.
“Media freedom is not a toy,” said UN global communications leader Melissa Fleming in a tweet on Friday, adding that she is “deeply disturbed” by the removal of journalists from the site.
Germany’s foreign ministry tweeted that “freedom of the press cannot be turned on or off on a whim”, while French Industry Minister Roland Lescure tweeted on Friday morning that he would suspend his account until further notice in protest. His account is active but no tweets have been made since.
Perhaps most notable, however, was the reaction of senior officials in the EU, the 27-nation bloc that has taken an increasingly firm stance on regulating the online space.
“The EU’s Digital Services Law requires that media freedom and fundamental rights be respected. “This is empowered under #MediaFreedomAct,” European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová said in a Twitter post.
“There are red lines,” he said, “with sanctions coming soon.”
The Digital Services Act will introduce a sweeping new set of rules designed to reduce the power of tech companies and uphold the “basic rights” of internet users online. The law, which will take effect in 2024, will make platforms and search engines more responsible for illegal and harmful online content, including hate speech, fraud and disinformation.
“Platforms will have to ensure that their terms and conditions are clear, understandable and transparent, and respect media freedom” A spokesperson for Jourová told NBC News in an emailed statement.
They cannot be arbitrary and discriminatory in their decisions.” In the case of very large online platforms and search engines, non-compliance can result in fines of up to 6% of the company’s global turnover, according to Jourová’s office.
“Rogue platforms that refuse to comply with significant obligations and thus endanger people’s lives and safety, may seek the temporary suspension of their services from a court as a last resort, after involving all parties involved.”
This broad mandate marked the first time that Musk had drawn the ire of the EU over Twitter’s administration on Friday.
After internal infighting at the company in November, top EU official Thierry Breton warned Musk to comply with the bloc’s content control laws: “Twitter will have to enforce transparent user policies, significantly strengthen content moderation, and protect freedom of expression, tackling disinformation resolutely. . and limit targeted advertising,” according to a transcript of a conference call released by his office.
Musk has also come under criticism from European regulators when the company tried to copy the unannounced layoff practices of the “hard” Twitter rebrand with mass layoffs at its European headquarters in Dublin.
But despite the strong rhetoric, experts have warned that the EU may have difficulty enforcing its laws, and could force Musk to account for content moderation and freedom of expression as strongly as he warned.
“All you have to do is look at the EU’s approach to Hungary and Poland, where both countries have eroded democracy and liberal values. “Any kind of implementation can take years,” said Joseph Downing, senior lecturer in politics and international relations at Aston University’s European Center. said.
“Elon Musk and Twitter are agile. He can wake up one morning and snap his fingers and at 4 am the world will change.”
Musk accused journalists of sharing private information about his whereabouts, which he described as “basically the assassination coordinates”. Articles have been written about many of the suspended journalists. Twitter’s latest rule about accounts following private jets has changed and the justification for imposing it, which includes allegations of a stalking incident that Musk says affected his family.
“The European legal arsenal is not sufficient to oppose arbitrary acts of censorship,” said Ricardo Gutiérrez, Secretary General of the European Federation of Journalists.
“While platforms are common in everyday life, governance at the scale of their operations is incomplete and inadequate,” he added.
EU officials also predicted they would Add 100+ full-time staff by 2024 Enforce the Digital Services Act and other new rules on digital competition. Member states will also have to hire more people to oversee smaller platforms and coordinate with Brussels.
But the legislation is designed to enable social media companies to remove harmful content, even if that content comes from news services, rather than petitioning to protect certain content, according to Downing.
Speaking of Thursday’s suspension of tech journalists, Downing said, “The Digital Services Act is unprepared for this kind of problem because it wasn’t designed for it.”
“There was never any idea that journalists would be banned from Twitter, because that’s not what Twitter does,” he added.
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