Tag Archives: eu

United Nations “Very Disturbed” By Twitter’s Suspension Of Journalists

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.

Twitter Purges Workers Tasked With Regulatory And Content Issues

Elon Musk’s move to purge Twitter Inc. employees who don’t embrace his vision has led to a wave departures among policy and safety-issue staffers around the globe, sparking questions from regulators in key jurisdictions about the site’s continued compliance efforts, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to The Wall Street Journal, scrutiny has been particularly close in Europe, where officials have in recent years assumed a greater role in regulating big tech companies.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that staff departures in recent days include dozens of people spread across units such as governmental policy, legal affairs, and Twitter’s “trust and safety” division, which is responsible for functions like drafting content-moderation rules, according to current and former employees, postings on social media, and emails sent to work addresses of people who had worked at Twitter that recently bounced back. They have left from hubs including Dublin, Singapore and San Francisco.

The staff departures come as Twitter holds talks with the EU about the bloc’s new social-media law, dubbed the Digital Services Act, which will apply tougher rules on bigger platforms like Twitter by the middle of next year.

The Guardian reported that Twitter has disbanded its entire Brussels office, according to media reports, raising questions about the social media’s compliance with new EU laws to control big tech.

According to The Guardian, Julia Mozer and Dario La Nasa were in charge of Twitter’s digital policy in Europe left the company last week. The pair had survived an initial cut when Elon Musk laid off thousands of employees following his takeover last month. It is unclear whether Mozer and La Nasa were made redundant or chose to leave in response to Musk’s ultimatum to commit to working long “extremely hardcore” hours or quit.

Engadget also reported that Mozer and La Nasa oversaw public policy for Twitter in Europe. They were in charge of efforts to make sure Twitter complies with the EU’s disinformation code as well as the Digital Services Act. The DSA came into force last week and will apply to companies starting in February of 2024.

According to Engadget, the DSA gives EU governments more power over how platforms moderate content and when tech companies have to take down illegal content. Platforms will need to be transparent about the reasons for content moderation decisions. Affected users will have at the right to challenge moderation decisions if their content is removed or access to it is restricted.

Engadget also reported that if Twitter fails to comply with the DSA’s rules, it faces potentially heavy penalties. Regulators could fine Twitter up to six percent of its global turnover or even ban the platform. EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton has warned Musk that Twitter needs to abide by the bloc’s content regulations.

To put things in perspective, since Elon Musk took over Twitter, he has reinstated controversial accounts that had been previously suspended, he appears to have chosen to ignore the EU’s DSA, and Twitter’s communications department no longer exists. It appears that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission might be looking into the situation. In general, it is unwise to make changes to your newly purchased social media company that quickly attract the attention of regulators.

Secret Trade Agreement To Criminalise Copyright Infringement

According to La Quadrature du Net and based on both official and  leaked documents, secret trade negotiations for ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) by the EU Presidency includes negotiating criminal penalties for counterfeiters and copyright-infringers, bypassing the normal legislative system and significantly increasing the scope of “trade agreements”.

My understanding is that within the UK counterfeiting goods and copyright infringment are generally considered to be civil offences and imprisonment is not normally an option (cf OiNK).  However, criminal offences can be punished by imprisonment.  Of course, I’m not a lawyer and I’ve no idea what other countries do.

To be fair, the criminal part of the legislation is clearly aimed at large scale copying of goods and films as it mentions “commercial scale” in a number of places (article 2.14).  There’s a certain part of me that says criminal gangs and organisations need to be dealt with by criminal penalties which is arguably a good thing.

However, this isn’t the point.  ACTA is a trade agreement and should not be dictating legal penalties.  The ACTA agreement is negotiated between the US, EU, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and Switzerland, so it’s impact will be widespread and is likely to be adopted into law with little or no debate from countries’ elected representatives.  While we might agree with criminal penalties for criminal gangs, what will it be next time?  Prison for file-sharing teenagers?

Fortunately, the UK Government does appear to have come out against the change in the legislation.  In an interview for ComputerActive, a spokesman for the UK’s Intellectual Property Office said, “These are not appropriate penalties for copyright infringement.  Acta should not introduce new intellectual property laws or offences. Instead, it should provide a framework to better enforce existing laws.  The UK is opposed to the creation of new criminal offences at UK or EU level through Acta.”

The latest round of ACTA negotiation finished last week in Lucerne, Switzerland so further news may be forthcoming.