The United Nations is “very disturbed” by Twitter’s abrupt suspension of a group of US journalists, a spokesperson has said, warning that the move sets a “dangerous precedent” – as the EU said the social media platform could fall foul of forthcoming digital regulations, The Guardian reported.
According to The Guardian, Stéphane Dujarric said on Friday the UN was “very disturbed” by the barring of prominent tech reporters at news organizations including CNN, the Washington Post, and New York Times who have written about Musk and the tech company he owns.
Dujarric said media voices should not be silenced on a platform professed to be a haven for freedom of speech. “The move sets a dangerous precedent at a time when journalists all over the world are facing censorship, physical threats and even worse,” he told reporters.
Germany’s government said press freedom must not be switched “on and off on a whim” and Downing Street also raised concerns over the suspensions.
The Guardian also reported that the warning from the EU came from Věra Jourová, the European Commission vice-president for values and transparency, who tweeted that “news about arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying” and said the economic bloc’s Digital Services Act (DSA) required platforms to respect media freedom. Its provisions include a requirement that when users and content are penalized it must be in a “diligent and proportionate manner, with due regard to fundamental rights.”
Politico reported that France’s digital affairs minister Jean-Noël Barrot said he was “dismayed” about the direction Twitter was taking under Elon Musk after the platform removed nine U.S. journalists and other high-profile accounts in a seemingly arbitrary decision.
“Freedom of the press is the very foundation of democracy. To attack one is to attack the other,” Barrot tweeted.
According to Politico, the Commission is preparing to enforce EU’s content law, the Digital Services Act (DSA), from summer 2023. The new Media Freedom Act is also being negotiated and may not become law until at least late 2023.
The DSA – and its ability to levy hefty fines – would require lengthy investigations by a Commission team that isn’t fully in place. The Media Freedom Act doesn’t specifically tackle an issue such as “deplatforming” or removing a person from a social network like Twitter.
The Washington Post reported that Musk’s short time leading the company has been marked by upheaval. He has gutted Twitter’s workforce, disbanded an outside trust and safety council, and reinstated numerous banned accounts, including that of former president Donald Trump.
According to The Washington Post, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) tweeted in defense of the reporters Friday, saying Musk’s actions “are a fast track to Twitter becoming obsolete.”
It seems to me that Elon Musk should heed the warnings from the various countries that are “very disturbed” about what they see happening on Twitter. The EU cannot sanction Twitter and/or Elon Musk just yet, but should be able to do so after their regulations are in force.