European concerns rise as Twitter signals withdrawal from disinformation code

Web Desk
Twitter logo is seen on a phone. — AFP/File
Twitter logo is seen on a phone. — AFP/File

BRUSSELS: European sources have revealed that Twitter is planning to withdraw from the European Union's (EU) disinformation code, a voluntary agreement that brings together major social platforms. The decision by Twitter, which is owned by US billionaire Elon Musk, has been communicated to the European Commission, but formal notification to Brussels is still pending.

The EU's code of practice on disinformation was established in 2018 and has nearly three dozen signatories, including industry giants like Meta, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, and TikTok. It encompasses not only major platforms but also advertisers, fact-checkers, and non-governmental organisations. The code, drafted by the industry players themselves, includes over three dozen commitments, such as improved collaboration with fact-checkers and a commitment not to promote actors spreading disinformation.

Since Elon Musk acquired Twitter seven months ago, there has been a noticeable relaxation in content moderation, leading to an amplification of voices known for disseminating disinformation on the platform. According to one source, Twitter has indicated a preference for relying on its users rather than fact-checkers. The reports produced by Twitter under the code were deemed to be highly incomplete.

One European Commission official, speaking to AFP, stated, "If Elon Musk doesn't take the code seriously, then he should quit." While adherence to the code remains voluntary, the official emphasised that platforms cannot escape the consequences of the EU's Digital Services Act (DSA), which comes into effect in November. The DSA compels platforms to actively mitigate the risks of disinformation and imposes penalties of up to 6% of global revenues for non-compliance.

Vera Jourova, the vice president of the European Commission, expressed growing discomfort with Twitter last month due to the surge in Russian disinformation on the platform. She also raised concerns about Twitter's insufficient staff dedicated to combating disinformation, following a wave of layoffs following Elon Musk's arrival.

In response to inquiries, Twitter's press service sent an automated reply featuring a dog excrement emoji.