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French regulator warns Twitter of legal duty to moderate disinformation and hate

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France’s digital regulator has asked Twitter to confirm it can still meet its legal obligations to moderate harmful content and disinformation as the company undergoes a major reorganization, including layoffs of half of the company’s workforce, owned by Elon Musk.

The head of Arcom, France’s digital and audiovisual communications regulator, expressed “deep concern” in a letter to Twitter about how the chaos and staff erosion that characterized Musk’s first weeks as owner and CEO since his $44 billion purchase of Twitter last month could affect the company’s ability to “maintain a safe environment for users of its service” in France.

Roch-Olivier Maistre, president of Arcom, noted in Friday’s letter that Twitter is “one of the most used online platforms in France”, and said the company’s turmoil raises “systemic issues related to the reliability of democratic debate and public safety.”

He gave Twitter until Thursday to respond to Arcom’s concerns.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post about the letter.

Musk’s “free speech” agenda is dismantling security work on Twitter, insiders say

It comes as authorities in the United States and Europe vow to take a closer look at what’s happening on Twitter amid reports that a skeleton staff is running the platform, and as Musk reinstates controversial accounts known for spreading malicious content – including those of former President Donald Trump and Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson — but whose suspensions led to criticism that Twitter was stifling its users’ freedom of expression.

According to the letter, Twitter is responsible under French law for combating “the manipulation of information” and “the dissemination of online hate speech” on its platform, and Arcom is responsible for ensuring that Twitter fulfills its obligations, including on the area of ​​transparency. At the same time, Twitter must respect its users’ freedom of expression, it said.

If Twitter doesn’t take action to mitigate online hate, the regulator has the power to notify the platform and in some cases impose fines of up to $20.5 million, or 6 percent of global revenue from the previous fiscal year. year.

After Musk completed his acquisition of Twitter in late October, he named himself CEO, fired top executives and laid off half of the company’s workforce. He said he would form a “content moderation board with very different views.” future decisions about content moderation and suspended accounts.

The situation has affected Twitter’s European operations: over the weekend, Twitter’s head for France, Damien Viel, announced he was leaving the company. He did not clarify whether he quit or was fired.

“It’s over,” Fell tweeted.

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Arcom’s letter highlighted reports of the layoffs and questioned whether Twitter would be able to meet its obligations under French and EU law with a reduced workforce, asking for clarification on “the near-term evolution of the human and technological resources used to meet these obligations. .”

Aside from the impact of the recent layoffs, the regulator also said it wants to ensure Twitter can fully implement the Digital Services Act, a sweeping piece of European Union legislation that took effect last week that imposes transparency restrictions on tech companies.

Speculation about Europe’s reaction to Musk’s takeover of Twitter was fueled by a tweet after the purchase was completed by Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, in which Breton said Twitter should comply with European rules.

In a New York Times editorial published last week, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and security, wrote that “Twitter remains bound by the laws and regulations of the countries in which it operates,” which is Musk’s could make confession difficult. desire for freedom of speech to drive more decisions on Twitter. “Regulators have important tools at their disposal to enforce their will on Twitter and on Mr. Musk,” Roth added, citing the EU’s Digital Services Act.

The departure of Roth and other employees charged with security and compliance at Twitter following the Musk acquisition prompted the United States Federal Trade Commission to warn that it was willing to step in to verify that the company complied with the terms and conditions. of an agreement to ensure data security and privacy for users of the platform.

Twitter’s head of content moderation quits as departure alarms FTC

As The Post reported, Musk told Twitter employees in an email that the company will do “whatever it takes to comply with both the letter and the spirit” of its agreement with the FTC. “The same goes for all other government regulations where Twitter operates,” he added.

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