EU Commission warns Twitter: 'Free speech has its limits'
Vice-president of the European Commission Vera Jourová, responsible for media freedom and fundamental rights, has warned Twitter and its CEO Elon Musk again that the social media platform must take the fight against disinformation seriously. The Commission will soon be able to sanction Twitter if it fails to comply with its new legal obligations.
The Commission had previously criticised Twitter in February. As the only signatory to the European Code of Practice on Disinformation, it submitted an incomplete activity report that gave little to no explanation about how it plans to counter influence by foreign actors and tackle disinformation.
"We are the protectors of freedom of speech"
In a conversation with Belga on Wednesday, organised by the European Newsroom, Jourová criticised Twitter again. "I would like to explain to Mr Musk our philosophy," she said. "We are the protectors of freedom of speech, that's why we developed the code of practice, but that freedom has its limits."
Jourová's comment comes the day after the Commission announced that Twitter was one of the principal online platforms that will have another four months to comply with the requirements of the new European Digital Services Act (DSA).
"The code of practice is still voluntary, but once the DSA comes into force, the platforms will have to convince the regulator that they are doing everything necessary to manage the risk of disinformation."
If Twitter, or any other platform directly subject to Commission oversight, fails to comply with its obligations, the DSA allows for financial penalties, which can amount to 6 per cent of global turnover. If a platform still refuses to fulfil its obligations, the Commission can ask a court in extreme circumstances to take the site offline temporarily.
"Compare it to driving on the highway," Jourová said. "If you break the speed limit, you can get a fine. But your driver's licence can also be revoked. I'm not saying Twitter won't comply with the law, but when asked what we will do if they don't comply, I answer: apply the law."
There is still room for dialogue before the DSA obligations come into effect in four months, Jourová said. But she stressed her personal feelings about "unregulated aggressive Russian propaganda" on Twitter, saying it makes her feel less and less comfortable on the platform.
Vera Jourová answers questions during an interview in Brussels © BELGA PHOTO BENOIT DOPPAGNE