Elon Musk’s binning Twitter’s Covid misinformation policy could set his platform’s on a collision course with the EU.
Experts warn that Twitter stopping to take action against tweets breaching its coronavirus rules could be in breach of new EU laws, which force social media companies to adopt a more hands-on approach to everything from trolls and fake users to hate messages, misinformation and cyber bullying.
“Twitter cannot afford to ignore regulators’ warnings, and now Brussels has a brand-new set of rules – the Digital Services Act – with which to go after Twitter,” Laura Petrone, principal analyst at research firm GlobalData, tells Verdict.
As of September, Twitter has suspended over 11,000 accounts for spreading misinformation about Covid, the BBC reported.
“The number of people who believed Elon Musk when he assured us that Twitter wasn’t going to become a ‘hellscape’ under his leadership was low from the outset,” Stefan Rollnick, misinformation strategist at communications consultancy Lynn, tells Verdict. “After dumping Twitter’s Covid-19 disinformation policy, the only people rejoicing are hucksters, bigots and trolls.”
Rollnick suggests Musk may have an ulterior motive for ignoring the Digital Services Act and dumping Twitter’s Covid misinformation policy.
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“It’s hard to believe that Musk is not aware of the fact that what we all stand to lose from toxicity and misinformation on the platform, he will gain in the form of commercial return,” says Rollnick.
This comes after Musk has sparked a tsunami of controversies following his $44bn takeover of Twitter. Not only has Musk’s stance on content moderation has seen advertisers pull their campaigns, but the self-proclaimed chief twit has also alleged that Apple has threatened to cut ties with Twitter.
The way Musk has sacked thousands of Twitter employees could also come back to bite him. He is already facing a class action lawsuit as former Twitter employees claiming they didn’t get enough notice before he fired them.
The EU has also flagged that Twitter closing its Brussels office could result in added oversight from the European Commission. Staffers at the office focused on European polices, potentially putting the company at risk of failing to comply with the new Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act.