27 May 2023
Twitter has withdrawn from the European Union's Code of Practice on online disinformation, per the bloc's internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton. In a tweet, Breton issued a blunt warning to Twitter, stating that it cannot hide from incoming legal liability in this area. Twitter still faces legal obligations under the EU's Digital Services Act (DSA) as a very large online platform (VLOP). Beyond voluntary commitments, fighting disinformation will be a legal obligation under DSA as of August 25. The pan-EU law requires VLOPs like Twitter to assess and mitigate systemic risks to civic discourse and electoral processes, such as disinformation. The deadline for VLOPs compliance with obligations in the DSA is three months from now.
Previous management at Twitter signed the platform up to the voluntary EU Code on Disinformation back in 2018. But Twitter's current owner, billionaire Elon Musk, looks intent on picking a fight with the EU over speech moderation. Breaches of the DSA can attract penalties of up to 6% of global annual turnover. The EU fired an early warning shot at Musk, back in November, when it said publicly Twitter had huge work ahead of it if it was going to avoid breaching the DSA, including specifically name-checking areas like disinformation. So it was probably only a matter of time before Musk formally pulled the plug on the only bit he technically can. But while the Code remains voluntary, the EU has attached it to wider DSA compliance as defacto guidance for meeting the latter's hard obligations for VLOPs to tackle disinformation. So Twitter's wilful exit cranks up its regulatory risk, essentially inviting the Commission to sanction blatant rule flouting or risk the law become a flop. This move signals a fight between Twitter's current owner, Elon Musk, and the EU over speech moderation.
Twitter, EU Code of Practice, Disinformation, DSA, legal obligations