Twitter ‘not ready’ among tech companies to face strict new EU digital rules

Twitter is among the tech companies that will face the strictest level of scrutiny under a new European Union regulatory regime to monitor digital platforms, following warnings from Brussels that the Elon Musk-owned platform is not ready for the new rules. .

The company, which Musk bought in October 2022, has been designated a “very large online platform” under the bloc’s Digital Services Law, which means complying with measures such as publishing an independent audit of its compliance. of the legislation.

It will be joined by 16 other big names including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Wikipedia, Snapchat and TikTok.

Twitter has been repeatedly warned that it is not prepared for the new rules, violations of which can result in a fine of 6% of global billing and, in the most extreme cases, a temporary suspension of service. Under Musk’s ownership, Twitter has reduced its workforce from 7,500 people to about 1,500, raising fears that moderation standards and its ability to comply with the law will suffer as a result.

In November last year, the EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, hinted that Twitter was in danger of breaking the law, telling Musk that the company will have to redouble its efforts to “pass the grade.” Breton added that Musk had “a big job ahead of him” to comply with the DSA. However, a reading from the November meeting with Musk added that the Tesla CEO had “committed to comply” with the DSA.

In January, Breton again urged Musk to “move toward full DSA compliance,” with Musk responding that the DSA’s goals of transparency, accountability, and accurate reporting were aligned with those of Twitter.

Under the rules for large platforms, they must carry out annual risk assessments that outline the risks of harmful content, such as misinformation, misogyny, harm to children, and election rigging. The EU will also verify the moderation systems and the measures put in place to mitigate those risks.

The big platforms will also have to publish an independent audit of their compliance with the DSA, as well as how many people they employ in content moderation. They must also provide details of their algorithms and allow independent researchers to monitor compliance with the law.

Platforms will also be prohibited from creating child user profiles for companies to target with ads. Platforms that minors can access must also implement measures to protect their privacy and keep them safe. Users should also be able to easily report illegal content.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, confirmed Twitter’s designation as a VLOP on Tuesday, while Google and Microsoft’s Bing will also have to abide by similarly stringent regulations after being designated “very large search engines.” Technology platforms must reach at least 45 million monthly active users in the EU to be designated VLOP or VLSE.

There are also regulations for smaller platforms, such as posting transparent terms and conditions.

Breton said Tuesday that “the countdown is beginning” for companies designated with special status under the law. “Today is D(SA)-Day for digital regulation,” she said.

Guillaume Couneson, a partner at Linklaters law firm, said complying with the VLOP and VLSE provisions was a “challenge for everyone” and not just for Twitter. Designated companies now have four months to comply with the obligations of the law, including the first annual risk assessment.

“It’s not a long period of time to implement strict and, in some cases, onerous obligations,” Couneson said.

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