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FEATURED SOCIAL MEDIA REPORT: EU Prepares Enforcement Action Against Twitter For Leaving Disinformation Code


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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: May.28: 2023:

#AceSocialDesk EU says Twitter has left its EU voluntary disinformation code


The European Union says Twitter is pulling out of the EU’s voluntary code of practice against disinformation.

Thierry Breton speaks during a media conference holding two smartphones
Thierry Breton says “you can run but you can’t hide” from obligations to combat disinformation. (AP: Thierry Monasse)none

However, EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton warned the social media giant, “you can run but you can’t hide”, with new laws targeting disinformation coming into effect on August 25.

Twitter has not confirmed it will leave the voluntary code, and was still listed among signatories when Mr Breton made his comments. 

Since taking the reins last year, Twitter CEO Elon Musk has reinstated accounts previously banned for spreading misinformation; slashed moderation teams and rolled back its COVID-19 misinformation policy. 

Elon Musk on stage holding a microphone.
Twitter CEO Elon Musk took over the social media giant in 2022. (NTB: Carina Johansen via Reuters )none

The EU’s Strengthened Code of Practice on Disinformation was expanded last year, building on the initial code introduced in 2018.

It requires signatories to commit to measures such as demonetising the spread of disinformation; guaranteeing transparency of political advertising; enhancing cooperation with fact-checkers; and facilitating researchers’ access to data.

Signatories include Google, Meta and TikTok, among groups from the advertising industry, fact-checkers, and organisations with specific expertise on disinformation.

Thierry Breton speaks during a media conference holding two smartphones
Thierry Breton says “you can run but you can’t hide” from obligations to combat disinformation. (AP: Thierry Monasse)none

However, obligations to combat disinformation will be beefed up in August with the EU’s Digital Services Act.

Last year, Mr Breton warned Mr Musk that Twitter needed to beef up its measures to protect users from harmful content, to avoid violating the new rules, which threaten tech giants with big fines or even a ban.

EU ‘ready for enforcement’

In a tweet, Mr Breton warned Twitter that “obligations remain”, even if the platform withdraws from the voluntary code. 

“You can run but you can’t hide,” he said. 

“Beyond voluntary commitments, fighting disinformation will be legal obligation under #DSA as of August 25.

“Our teams will be ready for enforcement.”

Twitter has pulled out of the European Union’s voluntary code to fight disinformation, the EU has said.

Thierry Breton, who is the EU’s internal market commissioner, announced the news on Twitter – but warned the firm new laws would force compliance.

“Obligations remain. You can run but you can’t hide,” he said.

Twitter will be legally required to fight disinformation in the EU from 25 August, he said, adding: “Our teams will be ready for enforcement.”

Twitter has not confirmed its stance on the code or responded to a request for comment.

Dozens of tech firms both big and small are signed up to the EU’s disinformation code, including Meta – which owns Facebook and Instagram – as well as TikTok, Google, Microsoft and Twitch.

The code was launched in June last year, and aims to prevent profiteering from disinformation and fake news, as well as increasing transparency and curbing the spread of bots and fake accounts. 

Firms that sign the code can decide which pledges to make, such as cooperating with fact-checkers or tracking political advertising. 

Under Elon Musk’s ownership, moderation at Twitter has reportedly been greatly reduced – which critics say has allowed an increase in the spread of disinformation.

The social media giant used to have a dedicated team that worked to combat coordinated disinformation campaigns, but experts and former Twitter employees say the majority of these specialists resigned or were laid off.

Last month, the BBC found hundreds of Russian and Chinese state propaganda accounts were thriving on Twitter. 

But Twitter boss Mr Musk claims there is now “less misinformation rather than more” since he took over last October.

Alongside the voluntary code, the EU has also brought in a Digital Services Act – a law which obliges firms to do more to tackle illegal online content. 

From 25 August, platforms with more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU – which includes Twitter – will have to comply legally with the rules under the DSA.

The law will mean Twitter will have to have a mechanism for users to flag illegal content, act upon notifications “expeditiously” and put in measures to address the spread of disinformation.

On Friday, AFP news agency quoted a European Commission official as saying: “If (Elon Musk) doesn’t take the code seriously, then it’s better that he quits.”

By Francesca Gillett BBC News
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