EU warns Elon Musk that Twitter must follow local content rules to avoid ban

Musk's plans for looser moderation are butting up against political reality.

Patrick Pleul/Pool via REUTERS

Elon Musk may be buying Twitter to loosen its content moderation, but he might not get to be quite as free-wheeling as he'd like. European Union internal market commissioner Thierry Breton told The Financial Times in an interview that Musk's Twitter will still be subject to EU regulations, including the new Digital Services Act governing efforts to fight misinformation. The Tesla chief is "welcome," but "there are rules" he still has to follow, Breton said.

The Digital Services Act requires Twitter and other internet companies to share how they're curbing false claims on their sites. It also bans ads targeting minors as well as specific ethnicities, political affiliations, religions and sexual orientations. Firms also have to share how their recommendation systems work, offer non-profiling alternatives and share data with researchers. Any company that doesn't comply risks fines of up to six percent of global turnover and, if they refuse to change, an EU ban.

It's not certain how Musk will address the warning. We've asked Twitter for comment. However, it's safe to say that Musk's self-proclaimed "absolutist" approach to free speech will clash with political realities worldwide, not just the EU. The UK punishes companies that fail to limit content deemed harmful, and it's doubtful authoritarian countries like Russia would allow Twitter without heavy censorship, if at all. Musk may have to accept that some restrictions will remain, even if they aren't quite as pronounced as they are today.