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Twitter draws EU ire for sending incomplete disinformation report

Twitter Inc. was the only tech platform that didn’t send a complete report to the European Union detailing how it was tackling disinformation, a move that risks angering regulators.

Twitter’s report was short of data and didn’t include commitments from the social media company that it would empower fact-checkers, the EU’s executive arm said Thursday in a statement.

“I am disappointed to see that Twitter’s report lags behind others and I expect a more serious commitment to their obligations,” wrote Vice President Vera Jourova, in charge of values of transparency for the European Commission.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, who recently spoke with Twitter owner Elon Musk about following the EU’s rules, didn’t reference the company directly, but said that “it comes as no surprise that the degree of quality vary greatly according to the resources companies have allocated to this project.”

The report, part of the EU’s voluntary Code of Practice on Disinformation, details how companies are working to decrease the spread of misinformation such as that pushed by bots about Covid-19 to the number of political ads that were rejected. Twitter signed on to follow the code before Musk took over the company late last year, and agreed to submit an updated report every six months.

While companies aren’t required to participate, not complying fully could put Twitter on a bad track with regulators, especially as companies get ready to implement a wide range of content moderation rules in the upcoming Digital Services Act by Sept. 1. Failing to follow the DSA could cost a company fines of as much as 6% of its annual revenue or even prompt the commission to ban a platform altogether.

Twitter will almost certainly qualify as a “very large online platform,” requiring the company to address harmful content and submit annual risk assessments to the commission. Musk’s massive job cuts at Twitter — including the exodus of the company’s entire Brussels office — have raised concerns about whether the company will be able to make the necessary changes to comply with the EU’s rules.

An email seeking comment on the disinformation report was sent to Twitter’s press email, but wasn’t immediately returned.

Since taking over, Musk has already made a number of changes to the platform that alter the way it tackles misinformation, including eliminating its Covid-19 misinformation policy and cutting teams working on these issues.

He has made a point of promoting a little-known feature called Community Notes, which asks fact-checking volunteers to add more context to misleading or incorrect tweets, but the current design has limitations around misinformation that is politically polarizing.

Twitter is also ending free access to their APIs, which has allowed academic researchers to study the company. Now researchers will likely have to pay to obtain this information. Bloomberg

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