EU official visits Twitter headquarters to ‘stress test’ its ability to handle content moderation

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A top European Union official is touring Silicon Valley this week and reminding tech platforms including Twitter and Facebook-parent Meta about their content moderation obligations, just weeks ahead of a deadline to comply with sweeping new EU laws that will apply to large social media platforms.

On Thursday, EU Commissioner Thierry Breton and a team of staff descended on Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco to perform a “stress test” of the company’s ability to moderate online content. The test was aimed at evaluating how well Twitter may comply with the Digital Services Act (DSA), one of the first platform regulation laws of its kind anywhere in the world, when its provisions take hold on August 25.

“The company is taking this exercise very seriously,” Breton tweeted, sharing a silent video depicting Breton’s meeting with Twitter owner Elon Musk, who appeared via videoconference.

Under the DSA, companies such as Twitter must abide by a slew of rules around transparency and content, including a ban on targeted advertising for children. Violations of the DSA can carry fines of up to 6% of a company’s global annual revenue.

Breton did not say whether he believes Twitter passed its stress test, but described the session as a “constructive dialogue” that Twitter voluntarily agreed to undertake.

“Thank you @ThierryBreton,” Twitter’s new CEO Linda Yaccarino tweeted following the visit. “Europe is very important to Twitter and we’re focused on our continued partnership.”

In a speech Thursday, Breton said Twitter is not the only company that will be receiving a stress test. TikTok will undergo a similar evaluation next month, he added.

Breton also suggested that it’s a privilege for US tech companies to operate in Europe.

“Compliance with European rules is not a punishment. It’s an opportunity to tap into our European Single Market,” he said. “And this is my message to the companies here. You are welcome in Europe, but according to our rules, at our conditions.”

Breton said that his schedule this week also involves meetings with Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai; Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg; OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang.

Part of the reason for his visit was to explain the European Union’s coming rules on artificial intelligence, he added. Last week, the European Parliament passed the AI Act, legislation that works hand-in-hand with the DSA as well as European competition and privacy law to regulate artificial intelligence.

Concerns about Twitter’s ability to handle hate speech, misinformation and other challenges have grown since Musk’s purchase of the company last year. As recently as this week, US lawmakers cited the company’s deep layoffs as a potential barrier to safeguarding the 2024 US elections.

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