In a significant turn of events, Twitter has pulled out of the European Union’s voluntary code aimed at combating disinformation. This unexpected move has caused concern and has triggered a broader conversation about the fight against false information and the importance of responsible moderation in today’s digital landscape.
Twitter’s Legal Obligations from August 2023
Despite Twitter’s departure from the voluntary code, the EU has announced that the social media giant will be legally bound to fight disinformation starting from August 25, 2023. The EU is prepared to enforce these new obligations, which will involve taking strict measures against disinformation on platforms with more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU, including Twitter.
Under the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), these platforms must establish mechanisms for users to report illegal content and swiftly respond to such notifications. This also includes implementing measures to mitigate the spread of disinformation. If Twitter does not comply, it could face severe legal consequences.
The State of Moderation at Twitter
Since the arrival of Elon Musk as Twitter’s CEO, critics have raised concerns about a purported reduction in moderation activities. There are reports of decreased efforts to combat coordinated disinformation campaigns, with most specialists who previously worked on these issues having either resigned or been laid off.
Critics argue that these changes have contributed to the increased spread of disinformation on Twitter. This was highlighted by a recent BBC investigation that found numerous Russian and Chinese state propaganda accounts thriving on the platform. Despite this, Musk maintains that there has been “less misinformation rather than more” on Twitter since his tenure began.
The Future of Disinformation Fighting Efforts
Twitter’s exit from the code is a significant blow, given that dozens of tech firms, both large and small, are signed up to the EU’s disinformation code. These include Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, TikTok, Google, Microsoft, and Twitch.
The code, launched in June last year, was designed to counter profiteering from disinformation and fake news, increase transparency, and curb the spread of bots and fake accounts. Participants can choose their pledges, such as collaborating with fact-checkers or monitoring political advertising.
The EU has expressed disappointment at Twitter’s withdrawal but remains determined to fight disinformation. As per a European Commission official, “If (Elon Musk) does not take the code seriously, then it is better that he quits.”
The battle against disinformation remains a crucial and difficult subject that requires worldwide attention and coordinated action as the digital landscape evolves. This opinion emphasises the critical necessity for technology businesses to be more proactive in the fight against disinformation. While voluntary behaviour codes are one option, stronger, legally enforced laws are required.