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Europe wasted no time warning Musk about ‘arbitrary suspension of journalists’

European Union lawmakers wasted no time warning Twitter owner Elon Musk about “arbitrary journalistic suspension” following reports the end of yesterday that several reporters who recently wrote about Musk had their Twitter accounts locked without warning.

Věra Jourová, EU vice-president for values ​​and transparency, took to Twitter this morning to tweet the bloc’s concerns over Musk’s actions – and issued a clear warning of “red lines” and “sanctions” embedded in recently updated EU rules on digital services that she noted should respect media freedoms and fundamental rights.

“The news of the arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is disturbing. EU Digital Services Act [DSA] requires respect for media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced by our #MediaFreedomAct. @elonmusk should know that. There is a red line. And sanctions, soon,” the EU commissioner wrote.

Among its many provisions, the upcoming EU regulations make requirements for intermediary service providers not to act arbitrarily or discriminately in the application of their terms of service — and to respect fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and information, including freedom of the media and pluralism.

Regulatory EU sanctions include penalties that can add up to 6% of annual global revenue — as well as the power for regulators to act quickly on alleged practices. suspected violations by applying temporary remedies. In severe cases, the Commission can also apply to the EU courts to block access to the offending service in the region.

The Committee has proposed the European Media Freedom Act in September — to supplement the DSA with additional measures to protect media freedom and pluralism in the EU, including measures against “gratuitous removal by very large online platforms (on 45 million users in the EU) for media content produced in accordance with professional standards”.

Although the law still has to be passed through the bloc’s usual co-legislative process – so it could be years before these targeted media freedom measures are validated in EU law.

Journalists suspended by Twitter in this (latest) wave of Musk’s erratic enforcement include the Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, the New York Times’ Ryan Mac and CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, as well as several other reporters. from publications like Mashable and Interceptor.

Musk implied that the action was taken because journalists violated Twitter’s rules on doxxing, which were revised on Wednesday to prohibit the sharing of location information directly after Musk took action to bot account suspensioncalled @ElonJet — as of June 2020, tweeted the live location of Musk’s private jet using publicly available flight data.

The suspension follows an incident earlier this week, when Musk complained that a stalker had been following his son’s car.

A Twitter space audio stream quickly turned around the journalist suspension, hosted by BuzzFeed reporter Katie Notopoulos, reported by attendees to have enticed the creator of the ElonJet bot, a number of suspended journalists who were still can participate in this event. even though their Twitter account has been suspended (clear because Twitter’s legacy infrastructure had issues with its audio streaming feature) — and, shortly, also involving Elon Musk himself — before the stream was abruptly closed.

During the live stream, excerpt (currently) circulating on TwitterMusk defended the suspension by claiming that journalists violated Twitter’s rules about doxxing by sharing his real-time location.

“There won’t be any distinction in the future between journalists – ‘so-called journalists’ – and ordinary people,” Musk can be heard telling Notopoulos in the recording of the broadcast. be shared on Twitter. “Everyone will be treated the same. You’re not special because you’re a journalist. You’re just a Twitter [user] – you are a citizen. So there is no special treatment. You doxx, you get suspended. End of story.”

Musk also suggested that what he calls “avoiding the ban or trying to be smart about it – like, oh, I posted a link to real-time information” would be construed as an attempt to circumvents the policy prohibition – and so that enforcement action will track anyone who just shares links to accounts that post real-time information.

“You share the link to the real-time information, the ban – obviously,” Musk said.

Harwell countered what he saw as Musk’s hint that he shared his address – which Harwell said was “not true”. Musk countered that “it’s true”. Harwell later responded: “During the course of reporting on ElonJet, we posted links to ElonJet that is currently offline – now banned on Twitter, and Twitter of course also flagged both his Instagram and Mastadon accounts. ElonJet is harmful – using , we must admit, admitting, uses exactly the link blocking technique you have criticized as part of Hunter Biden New York Post Story 2020 So what’s the difference here and there?”

“It’s not more acceptable to you than it is to me – it’s the same thing,” Musk replied, seemingly ignoring the question. He followed that, after a brief intervention by Harwell, by clarifying that he did not mean that his action of suspending journalists from sharing links to ElonJet was unacceptable. okay and repeat: “No, you’re stupid, you’re suspended at the end of the story, that’s all.”

At that point, per attendee, Musk stopped going live—and shortly after, the Twitter Space was shut down by someone other than the host.

At the time of writing, there are report of the Space is unavailable and/or experiencing technical issues, with some Twitter users reporting glitches or other problems launching the stream. And in the past few hours, Musk has responded to a complaint about this on Twitter — tweeting briefly: “We’re fixing a Legacy bug. Will work tomorrow.”

Musk has also taken to social media in recent hours to respond to a Twitter conversation criticizing the journalist’s suspension – stated in a statement. tweet that “criticizing me all day is perfectly fine, but doxx my real-time location and endangering my family is not”; and in again implies that accounts that violate the doxxing rules will only receive a “temporary seven-day suspension”.

However, one of the journalists affected by the ban – Aaron Ruper – wrote (via a blog post on Substack) that he received a notice from Twitter saying that his account has been permanently suspended, so it’s anyone’s guess whether Musk will stick to the seven-day suspension rule or stick to his anger. his anger and decided never to reinstate reporters.

The declared seven-day suspension ‘policy’ also appears to have been instituted by Musk after he polled Twitter users asking when doxxed accounts “exactly where I am in realtime” should be unsuspended.

The winning pick from that poll was actually “right now” – 43% of the 535,233 votes cast. The ‘Seven Days’ option received only 14.4% of the vote – underscoring how arbitrary Musk’s policy decisions are at Twitter. (See also, among others, his decision to issued a general amnesty to previously banned accounts (also with a few exceptions that seem to be based on Musk’s personal preference, such as InfoWars’ Alex Jones is still banned); as well as Musk’s choice Permanently lifting the embargo on former US President Donald Trump (who has so far restricted tweets because he has his own social platform to worry about these days) after Musk did another poll of Twitter users – instead for the sake of waiting for a content moderation board that he announced earlier that he would form to do so the decision was formed. So, uh, \_(ツ)_/¯)

Going back to the EU DSA, regulation took effect last month but will only begin to apply — that is, it’s expected date of compliance — from February 17 next year, which is the deadline for application to a larger subset of platforms, known as “platforms”. very large online network” (VLOP), has additional obligations under the DSA — in areas such as algorithmic accountability, social risk assessment and mitigation.

It is not yet clear if Twitter will be designated as a VLOP under the DSA — or if it will fall under the common mode for digital services — excluding additional obligations and having a longer grace period. (until February 2024) before compliance begins to apply.

The Commission will make official VLOP designations in February. But like we have reported beforeMusk’s erratic administration of Twitter since he took over at the end of October has clearly worried Brussels — prompting a flurry of warnings and other actions by the Commission in recent weeks. Includes a statement following reports of more staff layoffs at Twitter that it may take into account more expansive criteria (rather than sheer size) when deciding which platforms to face additional obligations that the DSA imposes on VLOPs — such as the “appropriateness” of resources dedicated to block regulatory compliance.

Last monthThe committee also revealed that it has arranged to conduct a stress test of Twitter’s resources early next year — so it looks like they’re preparing to do the work (and make sure that it shows its activity) to give that relevance assessment so that it can hit a VLOP Order on Twitter if it deems it necessary (or, well, possibly due process; it certainly will; don’t want to be accused of making their own arbitrary decisions… ).

Discussing the DSA’s sanctions regime, a spokesperson for the Commission told TechCrunch that the regulation gives them enforcement powers over VLOPs “similar to what they have in antitrust proceedings.”

“For smaller platforms, each Member State shall clearly prescribe penalties in their national law in accordance with the requirements set forth in the Regulations, ensuring they are commensurate with the nature and severity of the penalties. seriousness of the violation, but is still of a deterrent nature to ensure compliance,” it also noted.

The Committee also made a point of emphasizing that the DSA’s enforcement mechanism is not limited to fines. And has also implemented some interesting new terms in this context – alluding to “platform scams” – that read as if it was most likely coined in Musk’s mind.

“Digital Service Coordinator [aka a national regulator that enforces the DSA on non-VLOPs at EU Member State level] and the Commission will have the power to require immediate actions if necessary to address very serious harms, and platforms can make commitments on how they will remediate them,” it said. and safe, it may be a last resort to ask the court to temporarily suspend their services, after involving all parties involved.”

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