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EU tells Twitter 'you can run but you can't hide' from disinformation policy

Avian platform pulled out of the voluntary Code of Practice last week

Updated European Commissioner Thierry Breton told the world this weekend that Twitter had pulled out of the EU's voluntary Code of Practice against disinformation, but warned it has "obligations" anyway. "You can run but you can't hide."

And when are the enforcers going to do something about it? It could be as soon as August, said the internal markets chief, formerly CEO of France Télécom.

Breton continued: "Beyond voluntary commitments, fighting disinformation will be [a] legal obligation under [the Digital Services Act] as of August 25. Our teams will be ready for enforcement."

Twitter – only as recently as last month –  is considered a VLOP ("Very Large Online Platform") under the new legislation.

Companies on the lists have to comply – by end of August – with the fresh set of obligations under the Digital Services Act (DSA), including watching out for systemic risks ranging from how illegal content and disinformation can be amplified on their services, to protection of minors online and their mental health. They will also be expected to have plain language Ts&Cs, and give users "clear information on why they are recommended certain information." Users must also be able to "opt out from recommendation systems based on profiling" and the services must label all ads and inform users on who is promoting them. It'll certainly be an interesting first few months for Linda Yaccarino, the former ad exec who will be sitting in the hot seat from June.

We asked Twitter for comment and got the first poomoji of the week. You're sweet. Thanks guys. One of the things we asked the automated mailbox was: "Is it because you are short-staffed?" and we think that's a fair question. When you've fired so many that by some counts only 20 percent of the team remains with just 550 people reportedly in engineering, you might decide the person or persons tasked with looking after anything with "voluntary" in the title would be better off doing something else. They could be ensuring the backend is holding up, for example, or working to keep a live-streamed presidential bid launch that your boss backs from falling over.

Swift backlash against Breton immediately ensued, with at least one Twitter denizen calling for the EU to be "abolished," while others, not unfairly, asked how the body would judge what was disinformation and what wasn't*.

Tomorrow, the fourth ministerial meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council takes place in Luleå, Sweden. It will be co-chaired by European Commission executive vice president Margrethe Vestager, European Commission executive vice president Valdis Dombrovskis, United States secretary of state Antony Blinken, United States secretary of commerce Gina Raimondo, and United States trade representative Katherine Tai. According to the commission this morning, Breton will also be in attendance, with the Swedish Presidency of the Council playing host. ®

*Updated to add:

Twitter has reportedly agreed to be subjected to a "misinformation" stress test to determine how well it complies with Europe’s new digital-content law, Breton told the FT in an interview on June 1.

According to the commissioner for the internal market, a "team of roughly five to 10 digital specialists from the EU" will be putting Twitter, and possibly others, through a test to see if their content-policing works during a visit to San Francisco later this month.

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