In an unexpected move, Twitter, the global microblogging platform, has withdrawn from a voluntary European Union agreement designed to combat online disinformation. This news was announced by European Commissioner Thierry Breton on Friday.
The EU’s disinformation “code of practice” had garnered support from several major social media platforms, establishing a commitment to combat the pervasive issue of online misinformation. Despite Twitter’s withdrawal, Breton emphasized the platform’s enduring obligation under the forthcoming stringent digital rules set to come into effect in August.
Breton’s assertive stance, encapsulated in his statement “You can run but you can’t hide,” suggests a steadfast resolve to implement these rules, even as Twitter steps back from the agreement.
Twitter, headquartered in San Francisco, remained silent on this matter, responding with an automated reply and offering no comment.
This decision could be seen as the latest step by billionaire owner Elon Musk in his strategy to reshape Twitter since his acquisition of the company last year. Musk’s approach has involved loosening constraints on the platform, including rolling back anti-misinformation rules. His aim seems to be transforming Twitter into a digital town square, a move that has created upheaval in the platform’s verification and content-moderation policies.
Many major tech companies, including Google, TikTok, Microsoft, and Facebook and Instagram parent Meta, remain committed to the EU’s code of practice. These companies are required to assess their efforts in combating disinformation and periodically report their progress.
However, Twitter’s commitment to the code has been questioned before. Earlier this year, the European Commission criticized Twitter for failing to provide a comprehensive initial report, accusing it of providing minimal specific information and lacking targeted data.
With the new digital rules that incorporate the code of practice, Breton stated that tackling disinformation will become a “legal obligation,” adding that their teams are prepared to enforce it. As this situation unfolds, it offers a compelling case study of the balancing act between ensuring freedom of speech and curtailing disinformation in the digital age.