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

Elon Musk, who is proposing to buy Twitter, has backed a new European Union law to protect social media users from harmful content after meeting the bloc’s single market chief.

EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he explained to Mr. Musk how the bloc’s online regulations aim to maintain free speech while ensuring that everything that is illegal “will be banned in the digital space”, which the Tesla chief “fully agrees with”.

In a video Mr Breton tweeted on Monday night, Mr Musk said the two men had a ‘great discussion’ and that he agreed with the Digital Services Act, which is expected to receive approval final later this year.

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

Mr Musk’s plan to buy Twitter for $44billion (£35billion) has raised fears he will make changes to the platform that would prioritize free speech over to online safety, which could put it at odds with the rules in Europe, which has led a worldwide movement to clamp down on the power of tech giants.

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

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

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

Thierry Breton, on the right (Kenzo Tribouillard / AP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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