Elon Musk will comply with the EU’s Digital Services Act when he gains full ownership of Twitter, AP reports. The act, first proposed in December 2020 but yet to be formally approved, would ensure “a safe and accountable online environment” for its citizens, the EU Commission states.
The assent from Musk came last Monday, after having met with EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton. That same day, Breton posted a tweet, containing a video message from him and Musk, in which the latter declared they had a “great discussion” and that the act is “exactly aligned with my thinking.”
Afterwards, Breton went on to tell AP that the Musk meeting served to inform the world’s wealthiest man of the balance the EU seeks to strike between free speech and making sure that whatever is illegal “will be forbidden in the digital space.” The Digital Services Act has come under criticism for its vagueness over what constitutes “hate speech” and “disinformation”—skeptics predict that a liberal interpretation of these terms could justify the silencing of political dissent.
It is unclear how Musk’s Tuesday announcement to reinstate former president Donald J. Trump’s Twitter account would be handled by regulatory bodies. Nor is it certain whether Trump would actually return to the platform, as he had previously told Fox News he would not, preferring instead to make use of his own social media app ‘Truth Social.’
Musk drew fire from various government bodies as soon as Twitter’s board of directors unanimously accepted his buyout offer of $44 billion on April 25th. A shot across the bow came from both the EU and the UK over the billionaire’s vision of Twitter being a “digital town square” (guided by his self-professed “free speech absolutism”).
Subsequently, a UK government spokesperson told CNBC that the country is “introducing new online safety laws to safeguard children, prevent abusive behavior and protect free speech,” and that “all tech firms with users in the UK will need to comply with the new laws or face hefty fines and having their sites blocked.” The legislation, known simply as the Online Safety Bill, is yet to be approved by UK lawmakers. If passed, it would allow for jail time for company executives of platforms (such as Twitter) over serious violations. Further penalties would include fines up to 10% of annual global sales as well.
Meanwhile, on the American front, a few days after the news, the formation of a Disinformation Governance Board was announced. Run under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, the board’s purpose—at least ostensibly—is to erect barriers to disinformation from Russia being shared online and combat misleading information circulated by human smugglers. It is headed by “disinformation expert” Nina Jankowicz, who quickly gained notoriety not for her credentials, but for her love of musical and cabaret song performances—among which is a Mary Poppins song, repurposed for political commentary.
Considering the timing of the announcement, some fear the scope of the board is far more extensive, however. While a DHS spokesperson said that the department had begun its work on disinformation several years ago, and that the government body was created “to ensure this work does not infringe on the fundamental right of free speech and to further protect privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties,” Missouri’s U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R.) sees it as a flagrant attack on the right to free speech, codified in the First Amendment.
On May 4th, he introduced a bill that would immediately dissolve the DHS, whilst unseating its director.
In a statement to Fox News Digital, Hawley said:
[American president] Biden’s so-called Disinformation Board is unconstitutional and must be dissolved immediately. This is nothing short of a censorship committee vested with the full powers of the federal government to monitor dissenting speech and opposing viewpoints under the guise of national security. The American people need a full accounting of who signed off on this Board and who approved such a radical, anti-free speech activist to lead it.
Tristan Vanheuckelom writes on film, literature, and comics for various Dutch publications. He is an avid student of history, political theory, and religion, and is a News Writer at The European Conservative.