Twitter set to exit EU Code of Practice on Disinformation, sources say
Twitter told the European Commission it is seriously considering withdrawing from the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation, a voluntary agreement that preludes upcoming binding rules, EU officials told EURACTIV.
The announcement of Twitter’s withdrawal from the code would come as little surprise to those involved in the voluntary pledge. Since Elon Musk took over the tech company in October, he slashed entire departments, including those responsible for content moderation, to cut costs.
“I was waiting for this. It was purely a matter of time,” an EU official told EURACTIV under the condition of anonymity, adding that Twitter’s eventual withdrawal might be the end of a headache for the Commission, given the platform’s lack of compliance.
“It’s the only way, we can’t force them out.”
Twitter gets ‘yellow card’ as platforms report on content moderation
As major platforms submitted their first progress reports on compliance with the updated Code of Practice on Disinformation, EU officials criticised Twitter for its scant efforts, which gave the impression it “didn’t take it seriously enough”.
The European Commission has made no secret that it is unhappy with how Twitter has kept up with the voluntary code, which has recently been revised to bring the commitments to fight disinformation to an all-new level.
In February, the signatories of the code to fight disinformation, which includes all major platforms like Facebook, Google and TikTok, had to submit their first progress report. Twitter stood out for its poor effort in complying with the voluntary commitments and was issued a moral ‘yellow card’.
“A lot of us were surprised they even managed to submit a report in the first place,” said a stakeholder involved in the Code, also anonymously, stressing that since the mass layoffs, Twitter’s representatives started dropping out overnight, and the platform disengaged from the work.
According to a second EU official, this underlying tension seems to have come to a head at a meeting on Wednesday (24 May), when “Twitter has informed us that they are seriously considering leaving the code.”
“They haven’t resigned yet, but the European Commission is expecting the formal notice this week,” a second stakeholder involved in the Code of Practice told EURACTIV.
According to the second EU official, the Twitter representatives explained that under the new management, Twitter has moved toward Community Notes, a community-led content moderation approach.
However, this argument is “disingenuous” for the first stakeholder source because the code could have been adapted to cover this sort of community engagement. Still, Twitter did not contribute to that conversation at the time.
EURACTIV understands the final decision on the withdrawal now sits with senior management, which could include Musk. A formal decision in this sense might be announced at the next plenary of the Code’s participants on 5 June.
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Musk has been trying to reassure top EU officials that he intends to keep up with EU rules after several slaps on the wrist from Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton. However, the reality on the ground points in the opposite direction.
While adherence to the code is voluntary, its commitments largely anticipate those of the Digital Services Act (DSA), Europe’s new content moderation rulebook. The code itself is due to become a binding Code of Conduct under the DSA.
Last month, the European Commission designated Twitter as a very large platform, meaning it will have to follow a particularly strict regime regarding transparency and risk management.
On the day of the announcement, Breton confirmed that the social network is on their special watch list and that he obtained permission from the platform to conduct a stress test live at the company’s headquarters at the end of June.
However, two weeks earlier, EURACTIV revealed that Twitter cannot keep up with the new EU requirements that will kick in on 25 August.
As the EU has always been a somewhat secondary market for the platform, and it is becoming increasingly likely that Twitter may opt not to comply with the DSA, withdrawing from Europe altogether.
Therefore, exiting from the Code of Practice on Disinformation might be the first formal step in Twitter’s departure from Europe.
Twitter did not reply to EURACTIV’s request for comment by the time of publication.
Musk’s Twitter on collision course with Europe, with exit possible
By corporate decision, simple negligence or political reasoning, Twitter’s exit from Europe might only be a matter of time if the platform’s new management does not change its current course and commit to regulatory compliance.