EU official warns Musk he’ll have to ‘fly by our rules’ as he buys Twitter

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Elon Musk’s Twitter profile is seen on a smartphone placed on printed Twitter logos in this picture illustration taken April 28, 2022.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

A top European Union official had a warning for Elon Musk Friday about his $44 purchase of Twitter, telling the billionaire he will have to play by the rules.

After a cryptic tweet from Musk suggesting he’d completed his acquisition of Twitter, Thierry Breton, the European commissioner for the internal market, warned Musk that he will have to comply with the bloc’s new digital regulations.

“The bird is freed,” Musk tweeted. In response, Breton quote-tweeted Musk saying: “In Europe, the bird will fly by our rules.”

Although not officially confirmed, a spokesperson for crypto exchange Binance, which provided Musk equity financing for the Twitter takeover, said Friday the transaction had been completed.

Musk, one of Twitter’s most popular users, is known for tweeting everything from announcements about Tesla and his other companies, to memes and attacks on his critics.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO has previously called himself a “free speech absolutist,” and says he wants to reform Twitter as a “digital town square” with fewer restrictions on what users can say.

That will have ramifications for the way content is moderated on Twitter, a key concern for regulators looking to rein in digital giants over the spread of hate speech and disinformation online.

Under the European Union’s recently approved Digital Services Act, large tech companies will be required to have robust content moderation systems to ensure they can quickly take down illegal material such as hate speech, incitement to terrorism and child sexual abuse.

 For his part, Musk has said he wouldn’t allow illegal content on the platform.

The EU’s rules are expected to come into force by 2024. Companies can be fined up to 6% of global annual revenues for violations.

Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the European Parliament, said Friday that “the need for rules and accountability is bigger than ever.”

“So one man @elonmusk now owns the biggest debate in the world …” he said in a tweet. “Self-regulation in social media has never worked … even with lesser characters than his.”

Breton, a former CEO of French IT consulting firm Atos, is seen as a key architect of the European Union’s digital reforms. Alongside the Digital Markets Act, which seeks to curb the dominance of internet giants, the Digital Services Act is part of a bold plan by the bloc to regulate Big Tech.

In May, Musk and Breton met in person, and Musk at the time said the Digital Services Act was “exactly aligned with my thinking.”

But regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are worried that Musk could, for example, allow former President Donald Trump back onto the platform. Musk, who has previously said he would reverse the ban on Trump’s account, reportedly intends to scrap lifetime bans on Twitter users, according to Bloomberg.

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