Tesla downgraded over Elon Musk’s Twitter antics

Elon Musk is facing worldwide condemnation with the EU threatening to impose sanction after he decided to ban top journalists from Twitter – a move being described as violating red lines and attack on press freedom.

Vera Jourova, the European Commission’s vice president for values and transparency, said in a tweet that news of the “arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying”, as she talked about possible sanctions.

She said EU’s Digital Services Act required respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. Elon Musk should be aware of that. “There are red lines. And sanctions, soon.”

Jourova didn’t add any further details on the sanctions. Under the EU’s Digital Services Act, companies can be fined up to 6 percent of their global annual revenues for breaches.

The Digital Services Act, which entered into force on Nov 16, requires large platforms to reduce harms online, implement protections for users’ rights and issue transparency reports.

Big Tech platforms are required to report the number of active end users they have to the Commission by February 2023. They then have until four months after the bloc completes reviews of the numbers to comply with the rules.

The Tesla and SpaceX boss, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” has troubled politicians and civil liberties activists with steps to restore the accounts of banned users, including former U.S. President Donald Trump, and the laying off of thousands of Twitter’s employees.

Musk – who is serving as Twitter’s CEO since October after buying the company for $44 billion – is certainly finding it difficult to manage the social media platform due to his dictatorial tendencies and leaning towards far-right.

Joining the list of critics, the German Foreign Office tweeted screenshots on Friday of the accounts of journalists suspended by Twitter, telling the social media platform that suspending their accounts was unacceptable.

“Press freedom cannot be switched on and off on a whim,” the ministry wrote on its official Twitter page. “The journalists below can no longer follow us, comment and criticize. We have a problem with that.”

“Arbitrary locking of journalists’ accounts is unacceptable,” tweeted deputy government spokesperson Wolfgang Buechner, threatening to leave the platform should the policy continue.

European leaders previously said they were watching how Musk’s takeover of Twitter would affect the platform. Thierry Breton, a top EU official, warned Musk in late November that the social media platform must take significant steps to comply with the bloc’s content moderation laws.

“Twitter will have to implement transparent user policies, significantly reinforce content moderation and protect freedom of speech, tackle disinformation with resolve, and limit targeted advertising,” Breton said at the time. “All of this requires sufficient AI and human resources, both in volumes and skills. I look forward to progress in all these areas and we will come to assess Twitter’s readiness on site.”

A spokesperson for the United Nations said it was “very disturbed by the arbitrary suspension” of journalist accounts on Twitter, warning that the company’s actions have set “a dangerous precedent” amid rising threats to press freedom around the world.

Similarly, Jodie Ginsberg, president of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the organization was “deeply alarmed” by the move and called on Twitter to “immediately restore these reporters’ accounts.”

Meanwhile, many Democratic lawmakers in the United States took Musk to task. New York Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she understood Musk’s feelings of vulnerability as a public figure, “but descending into abuse of power + erratically banning journalists only increases the intensity around you.”

She added that “Take a beat and lay off the proto-fascism” and “Journalism is supposed to speak truth to power, not bow to it.”


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