Brussels warns Musk Twitter’s wings are already clipped in Europe

Newly-minted Twitter’s owner Elon Musk has already fired several high-ranking executives and boasted online that “the bird is freed.” But Europe is warning the billionaire to follow its rules.

The European Commission has decided to remind Musk – via Twitter, of course – that he will have to follow European Union (EU) rules on content moderation as the new owner of the social media platform.

“In Europe, the bird will fly by our rules,” Thierry Breton, the EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, said on the platform on Friday evening.

Earlier, Musk, who has been describing himself as a “free speech absolutist,” tweeted that “the bird has been freed,” referencing Twitter’s logo. And he kicked Friday off by saying, “Let the good times roll.”

However, Breton now reminded Musk of the EU’s Digital Services Act, the Union’s flagship reboot of long-standing e-commerce and digital services rules.

The DSA regulation will enter into force in mid-November and lays out, among other things, governance expectations for how businesses handle societal risks like illegal hate speech. What’s more, Breton also linked to his earlier trip to see Musk, when he squeezed out an awkward ‘thumbs up’ from Musk for Europe’s approach to digital regulation.

Obviously, a ‘thumbs up’ is not a legally binding promise. But once the regulation is active, the EU will have the right to supervise how large platforms, such as Twitter or Facebook, follow the bloc’s rules on moderation, open algorithms, freedom of speech, harassment, and transparency.

Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion, had previously said he wanted it to be a less moderated “common digital town square,’ but observers worry that cutting back on content regulation might open the floodgates to more toxicity, hate speech, and abuse online.

He also mentioned the possibility to reverse lifetime bans on Twitter users – for example, on former US president Donald Trump who remains banned from the service.

However, on Thursday, Musk also tried to calm investors and advertisers down, saying that he acquired the company in order to help humanity and that he didn’t want it to become a “free-for-all-hellscape.”

Yet, several hours later, the billionaire laid off Twitter Chief Executive Parag Agrawal, Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal, and Legal Affairs and Policy Chief Vijaya Gadde, according to people familiar with the matter.

Gadde had specifically been dealing with content regulation but was escorted out of the company’s headquarters on Thursday.

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