Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press. Views expressed here are his own.
In a tweet, European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton appeared to confirm what had been rumored the day prior: Elon Musk’s Twitter has left the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation.
“Twitter leaves EU voluntary Code of Practice against disinformation,” Breton tweeted. “But obligations remain. You can run but you can’t hide. Beyond voluntary commitments, fighting disinformation will be legal obligation under [the Digital Services Act] as of August 25. Our teams will be ready for enforcement.”
The voluntary Code of Practice, an effort at establishing self-regulatory standards for tech firms to mitigate disinformation, was agreed by Twitter, Facebook, Google and other industry partners in 2018, and revised and strengthened in 2022. Signatories to the Code agree to various commitments and measures intended to address the spread of falsehoods, including demonetization of disinformation, a variety of interventions related to political advertising, transparency and integrity standards, efforts at improving media literacy and otherwise equipping users to identify disinformation, empowering the research community, and cooperating with the fact-checking community.
In February of this year, Twitter failed to file a complete report on its implementation of the Code, the only one of the major tech platforms that did not meet that basic requirement.
In August, Twitter will be subject to the requirements of the EU’s Digital Services Act, which codifies many of the obligations in the Code into law. Twitter is designated as a Very Large Online Platform by the European Commission, which means it will be subject to close scrutiny if it wishes to operate in the European market.
Since Musk purchased the company, Twitter has fired or laid off a substantial number of the employees previously committed to fighting misinformation, disinformation and hate speech on the platform. While the cuts are perhaps the most severe among other tech platforms, the industry as a whole appears to be in a period of retrenchment in the fight against disinformation, drastically reducing trust and safety teams across the board.
An email to Twitter to confirm its withdrawal from the Code of Practice was met by reply with the now expected poop emoji.
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.