The Twitter acquisition of Elon Musk creates a potential confrontation with Europe

Thierry Breton, former CEO of French IT consultancy Atos, is considered a key architect of the European Union’s digital reforms.

Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

nach Elon MuskIt’s a $ 44 billion deal to buy TwitterEU officials have a message for the richest man in the world: follow the rules.

On the weekend, the European Union the provisional green light to the law on digital serviceswhich forces big tech companies to more aggressively control content on their platforms.

User-generated content platforms such as Twitter and Facebook robust content moderation systems will need to be implemented to ensure they can quickly remove illegal material such as hate speech, incitement to terrorism and child sexual abuse.

Musk is one of the most popular Twitter users and has used it for everything from advertising Tesla and his other companies to post memes and attack his critics.

The eccentric tech billionaire previously called himself a “absolutist of free speech“and says he wants to reform Twitter as a” digital town square “with fewer restrictions on what users can say.

This could have huge ramifications for how content is moderated on Twitter, a key concern for regulators looking to curb digital giants on the spread of hate speech and disinformation online.

At this stage, it’s unclear what exactly Musk plans to do with Twitter. And the company’s buying process will likely take several months, if not years.

but officials in the United States have raised concerns about the possibility of reinstating Musk that of Donald Trump Twitter account. The former president was banned from the platform after his supporters rioted in the US Capitol building on January 6, 2021. For his part, Trump says he has no plans to return.

Cedric O, France’s digital minister, said that while there are “some interesting things” that Musk wants to push on Twitter, the EU’s new Digital Services Act “will apply regardless of its owner’s ideology.”

The DSA is expected to go into effect as early as 2024. Companies that don’t abide by the rules face fines of up to 6% of their global annual revenues – just over $ 300 million for a company like Twitter, based on data from sale of 2021.

Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, has warned Musk that he will have to adapt to the new digital regulations of the block.

“Whether it’s cars or social media, any company operating in Europe must abide by our rules, regardless of their participation,” Breton tweeted on Tuesday.

“Mr Musk knows this well. He knows the European automotive regulations and will quickly adapt to the law on digital services”.

Breton, former CEO of French IT consultancy Atos, is considered a key architect of the European Union’s digital reforms. Next to Law on digital marketsseeking to curb the dominance of Internet giants, the DSA is part of a bold plan by the bloc to regulate Big Tech.

Carl Tobias, a professor of law at the University of Richmond, said Musk’s acquisition of Twitter “could be the first big test for DSA.”

A push for more lax control of online content could also put Musk on a collision course with the UK, where politicians are looking to introduce measures of their own to crack down on malicious content.

UK online safety law would make it mandatory for social media services to address both illegal posts and “legal but harmful” material, a vague definition that has drawn criticism from some in the tech industry over concerns that it may stifle freedom. of speech.

A UK government spokesman was not immediately available for comment when he was contacted by CNBC.

The stakes for platforms like Twitter would be even higher under the online safety bill, which threatens jail time for company executives for serious violations, as well as penalties of up to 10% of annual global sales.

The legislation, which has yet to be passed by British lawmakers, is expected to become law by the end of the year.