EU Regulations Don't Allow Absolutist Free Speech, Even For Elon Musk

Elon Musk Buys Twitter AM AH

Tesla and PayPal founder Elon Musk may have purchased Twitter with plans for an “absolutist” version of free speech but it will still need to comply with EU regulations for platform management. At least, that’s according to European Union internal market commissioner Thierry Breton, based on reports citing a pay-walled Financial Times article.

Specifically, Mr. Brenton — who has held his position since 2019 — points to the Digital Services Act. The recent regulation is explicitly designed to combat misinformation and disinformation. And, subsequently, requires internet companies like Twitter to show how they curb the spread of those. That’s in addition to outright bans on ads that target a wide swath of users. Including ads targeted to minors, ethnicities, political affiliations, religions, and sexual orientations.

Companies like Twitter also have to show how their systems related to those things work. As well as showing alternatives that don’t profile and sharing the data with researchers.


What happens if Elon Musk’s Twitter doesn’t follow EU regulations?

As noted above, one of the primary concerns leading Mr. Musk to buy Twitter is freedom of speech. Namely, a person’s ability to post what they want online without bias-based repercussions. For example, that’s without risk of being shadowbanned. Those concerns are, in part, what led to Mr. Musk’s self-proclaimed “absolutist” position on the matter. But deciding not to follow EU guidelines would have wider consequences for the platform.

The above-mentioned Digital Services Act includes hefty fines and other potential issues for companies that don’t comply. For example, the companies that don’t comply face fines of up to six percent of global turnover. For Twitter, global turnover equated to around $5.077 billion. So a fee of six percent would equate to around $304 million in fines.

Worse, if Twitter does face fines and continues to refuse to comply with EU regulations under Elon Musk, the service and apps could be banned outright in the EU. Potentially resulting in the involuntary loss of tens of millions of daily active users on the service.