France declares war on Twitter for its lack of commitment to fighting disinformation. But Elon Musk doesn’t seem to be interested and the abandonment of Europe (or its ban from the continent) is becoming more and more real.
Twitter’s news of abandoning the European Union’s Code of Conduct on Disinformation was not taken well across the Atlantic. After the warning from the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, the French government went so far as to threaten to ban Twitter from Europe.
Out of Europe
‘If Twitter does not respect our rules, it will be banned from the European Union in case of a repeat offence’. This was said by the Minister for Digital Transition and Telecommunications Jean-Noël Barrot.
“When it comes to fighting disinformation, Twitter is on a slippery slope. From 25 August next,’ said Barrot, ‘the rules that France has had adopted in Europe will apply. And Twitter will have to adapt and actively fight against disinformation. Otherwise Twitter will not be welcome in Europe’.
The same message had also come last December from Breton.
How much Twitter would lose out
Despite the fact that Europe is not Twitter’s most significant market, the minister recalled that if the social network does not comply with the Digital Services Act (DSA), the new European regulation on digital services that will come into force at the end of August, it could receive a hefty fine.
“If Twitter does not actively combat disinformation,” Barrot continued, “the European Commission could impose sanctions on it of up to 6 per cent of its worldwide turnover. Or about EUR 300 million. And in case of recidivism it could receive a ban from the European Union’.
The economic damage, however, has nothing to do with the number of EU users who are fond of Twitter. According to Dw, the social ‘currently boasts almost 330 million monthly active users. More than half of which come from the US, Japan and India. Only one European country, the UK, is in the top 10 of Twitter users. But the UK is no longer part of the EU’.
According to Oberlo, in 2023, Twitter has 95.4 million users in the US, 67.5 million in Japan and 27.3 million in India. The United Kingdom, in sixth position, has 23.2 million.
Twitter has already put one foot outside Europe
For both the US newspaper and Euractiv, the withdrawal from the Code of Conduct on Disinformation could be Twitter’s first formal step towards leaving Europe. As the regulation, to which signatories freely adhere, anticipates some of the measures that will instead become mandatory with the Digital Services Act. Which also has among its missions that of combating disinformation.
In fact, the legislation became a priority of the European Commission after whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed in 2021 that Facebook and its parent company Meta consciously prioritised profits rather than tackling disinformation and racist hate speech circulating on the platform.