Twitter risks EU ban if changes aren't made to prevent harmful content

Twitter's new CEO, Elon Musk, has been warned by a European Union official to make changes to the social media platform or it may face a ban.

A person in a dark room opens Twitter on their device.
Image: Unsplash via Akshar Dave

Billionaire and new CEO of Twitter, Elon Musk, has been warned by a top EU official to make changes to the popular social media platform regarding the rise in misinformation and harmful content or it will face large fines or even a ban across 27 countries.

Thierry Breton, the EU’s commissioner for digital policy, held a call with Musk to talk about the Digital Services Act which is going into law next year. The new EU law will require digital services, such as digital media websites like Twitter, to “create a safer digital space where the fundamental rights of users are protected,” as stated on the official European Commission website.

Breton informed the billionaire of the new measures he must take to keep Twitter accessible to people across countries in the EU, including managing stronger control towards posts and information that promotes hate speech, terrorism, child sexual abuse and commercial scams. Many believe that these rules may clash with the self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” but Breton says otherwise.

The EU’s commissioner for digital policy spoke about Musk saying he considers the new EU rules “a sensible approach to implement on a worldwide basis.” According to a transcript of the call released by Breton’s office, Musk made some comments regarding the large social media platform, “But let’s also be clear that there is still huge work ahead,” he began to explain. “Twitter will have to implement transparent user policies, significantly reinforce content moderation and protect freedom of speech, tackle disinformation with resolve, and limit targeted advertising.”

Elon Musk had a long battle with various overpriced offers and deals to buy out and own Twitter but the acquisition was officially completed on October 27 of this year. Within these short few months, Musk made a handful of seriously impacting changes, such as firing half of the 7,500-person workforce across the globe and unbanning a large portion of accounts that were previously suspended for harmful behaviour, in turn making the social media website a more hostile digital space for all kinds of users. Musk previously spoke about his decision to reinstate the voices of the people that once violated Twitter’s community guidelines where he promised the accounts “general amnesty”.

Earlier in the year, there was a report commissioned by UltraViolet, GLAAD, Kairos, and Women’s March to examine attitudes surrounding hate speech, harassment, and misinformation seen online among Americans. YouGov’s report shows that women, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ people experience higher levels of harassment and threats of violence on social media than any other users.

Some notable figures include:

  • 57% of social media users have seen online posts calling for physical violence based on a person’s race, gender, or sexuality
  • 88% of respondents in the LGBTQ+ sample report having seen a post that insults or attacks LGBTQ+ individuals
  • 38% of people of colour reported facing race- or ethnicity-based harassment; only 15% of white respondents said the same
  • 25% of women reported experiencing appearance-based harassment; 17% of men did

The findings in the report come several months before Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter and there are concerns that the findings may be altered after the string of what is described as “reckless” and “impulsive” decisions made by CEO.

“The alarming poll results reinforce just how badly social media companies are failing when it comes to protecting LGBTQ and other marginalized communities online,” expressed GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “At a time when online hate and harassment are leading to real-world threats and violence, these companies must make urgent improvements to enforcement of content and ad policies. Everyone deserves to feel safe on social media.”

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