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Musk says he’s ‘aligned’ with EU approach to harmful content on social media

Elon Musk (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Elon Musk (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Elon Musk, who is offering to buy Twitter, has given his support to a new European Union law aimed at protecting social media users from harmful content after he met the bloc’s single market chief.

EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he outlined to Mr Musk how the bloc’s online regulations aim to uphold free speech while also making sure whatever is illegal “will be forbidden in the digital space”, which the Tesla chief “fully agreed with”.

In a video Mr Breton tweeted late on Monday, Mr Musk said the two had a “great discussion” and that he agrees with the Digital Services Act, which is expected to get final approval later this year.

It will make big tech companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook parent Meta police their platforms more strictly for illegal or harmful content like hate speech and disinformation or face billions in fines.

Mr Musk’s plan to buy Twitter for 44 billion dollars (£35 billion) has raised fears he would make changes to the platform that would prioritise free speech over online safety — potentially putting him at odds with the rules in Europe, which has led a global movement to crack down on the power of tech giants.

The 65-second clip indicates Mr Musk’s and the EU’s views may be closer than they appear.

Mr Breton says in the video that he explained the Digital Services Act to Mr Musk in a meeting at Tesla’s Texas headquarters. Mr Musk responds by saying it is “exactly aligned with my thinking”.

“I agree with everything you said, really,” he said. “I think we’re very much of the same mind and, you know, I think anything that my companies can do that can be beneficial to Europe, we want to do that.”

Belgium EU Commission
Thierry Breton, right (Kenzo Tribouillard/AP)

The attempted Twitter acquisition by Mr Musk, a billionaire and self-described free speech absolutist, had raised concerns that he would take a hands-off approach to content moderation.

Mr Breton told AP that he explained to Mr Musk that the new law means “we need also to have more moderators, and in the language where we operate. So he fully understood”.

The pair agreed on the importance of being able to inspect algorithms that determine what social media users are being shown, Mr Breton said.

The Digital Services Act requires more transparency for algorithms, and Mr Musk has called for them to be opened up to public inspection.

Another topic of discussion was Donald Trump’s ban from Twitter for inciting violence at the US Capitol insurrection, which Mr Musk has reportedly opposed.

Mr Breton said he told Mr Musk the EU law includes provisions to maintain the rights of users, such as giving them the right to appeal against bans.