Thierry Breton | Photo Credits by Financial Times

Despite its willful withdrawal from the European Union’s (EU’s) voluntary Code of Practice against disinformation, Twitter still has obligations and could face fines once the upcoming EU disinformation bill is enforced in three months’ time.

“You Can Run But You Can’t Hide“

The EU came up with a voluntary Code of Practice as a move to fight disinformation among online platforms. To support the agenda, many digital information platforms including Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other advertising platforms signed up for the code.

By agreeing to the self-regulating code, the companies would among other things, disrupt the advertising revenues of certain accounts and websites that spread disinformation. As proof, the companies are required to submit regular progress reports with data showing how much advertising revenue they had averted from disinformation actors.

Additionally, they must disclose the quantity or value of political advertisements that were approved or disapproved as well as any instances of manipulative behavior that were found.

However, Twitter seemingly had trouble living up to the requirements, especially after Elon Musk acquired the platform hence it received a warning after submitting an incomplete report back in February.

The company has been struggling to keep up with addressing fake accounts and online bots on the platform thus it is no surprise that the CEO decided to pull the company out of the code.

This move, however, attracted a warning from the EU Commissioner Thierry Breton who tweeted saying “You can run but you can’t hide.“ He informed the company that fighting disinformation will no longer be voluntary as of August 25 when the Digital Services Act (DSA) comes into force.

Mandatory Compliance Under the DSA

Twitter | Photo Credits by The Hans India

According to the new regulations, Twitter is now regarded as a Very Large Online Platform (VLOP) which under the DSA is required to evaluate and reduce systemic hazards to public discourse and election processes, such as disinformation.

The Act will also require VLOPs to safeguard the online safety and mental health of minors and provide consumers with clear information on why they are recommended certain information and offer Terms and Conditions(Ts&Cs) in simple language.

Additionally, users must have the option to opt out of recommendation systems based on profiling and services must clearly label all advertisements and disclose to consumers who are funding them.

Failure to oblige with these and many other requirements will result in penalties of up to 6% of the company’s global turnover which is what Twitter is at risk of facing.

While one can easily argue that the code is voluntary, the EU Commission tied it to the DSA saying that adherence to the Code will be taken into account when determining signatories’ DSA compliance.

As such, Twitter’s withdrawal places it at a high risk of regulatory breach which sets it up for sanctions in Europe and other legal actions.

Upon acquiring Twitter, Musk has insisted that his goal was in part to promote openness and freedom of expression. The billionaire has offered it to be a news source and has put out suggestions for countering disinformation.

One of his strategies has been the Community Notes feature, which allows a small group of Twitter users to write notes and provide further context for certain tweets. All users can then see the comments that contributors make on tweets, which can be used by others to decide if the information was accurate or not.

However, there are concerns about the accuracy of some of these contributions, and it’s unclear whether a crowdsourced method can compete with the pervasive and occasionally algorithmically amplified false information spreading on Twitter.

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