The European Union has issued a warning to new Twitter owner Elon Musk, telling the billionaire that he has to comply with their digital rules, or face the risk of a hefty fine or ban of the social media platform in European Union member nations.
Thierry Breton, the EU’s commissioner for the internal market, told the Financial Times that Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, who acquired the platform in a $44 billion deal, must abide by the union’s rules on moderating illegal and harmful content online.
"We welcome everyone. We are open but on our conditions. At least we know what to tell him: 'Elon, there are rules. You are welcome but these are our rules. It’s not your rules which will apply here,’" Breton told the Financial Times.
In his takeover of the company, Musk has vowed to uphold free speech on the platform, saying on Monday that "free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy," and described the social media platform as "the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated."
In his takeover pitch, Musk proposed plans to loosen Twitter’s content moderation policies.
Breton said though that he wants to offer a "reality check" to Musk’s free speech plans, warning that not complying with the EU’s rules could risk the platform being banned across the union.
"Anyone who wants to benefit from this market will have to fulfill our rules. The board [of Twitter] will have to make sure that if it operates in Europe it will have to fulfill the obligations, including moderation, open algorithms, freedom of speech, transparency in rules, obligations to comply with our own rules for hate speech, revenge porn [and] harassment," said Breton.
"If [Twitter] does not comply with our law, there are sanctions — 6 per cent of the revenue and, if they continue, banned from operating in Europe," he added.
According to the Financial Times, Breton was key in negotiating the newly passed Digital Services Act, which forces social media companies like Twitter to disclose to regulators how they are moderating including disinformation and war propaganda.