Vera Jourova, a senior European Union official, on Friday warned Elon Musk that Twitter could face sanctions under a future EU media law after the platform suspended several journalists’ accounts.
In her tweet, Jourova mentioned two pieces of legislation: The Digital Services Act and the Media Freedom Act.
The Digital Services Act, which was passed but has not taken full effect yet, sets up ”accountability of online platforms regarding illegal and harmful content,” according to the European Commission.
Although the law does not specifically mention the role of journalists, it does include better safeguards for users’ right to freedom of expression, according to Reporters Without Borders. Platforms are required to disclose all their content moderation practices and must notify users about why their account was suspended or their post restricted.
Companies that violate the bill could face fines of up to 6% of their total worldwide turnover and a potential EU-wide ban.
The Media Freedom Act is a bill that proposes new regulations to protect media impartiality and independence. Provisions order transparency about the operations of a newsroom but also include protection for the media and journalists against unjustified content removal, according to the Commission. The bill must still pass the European Parliament.
The Twitter fiasco began Wednesday after an account tracking Elon Musk’s jet was suspended despite Musk initially saying he would not suspend it.
On Thursday, Twitter suspended several journalists’ accounts who reported on the @elonjet story, with Musk later tweeting they had been removed from the platform for doxxing him and violating the company’s policies on sharing live locations.
Since buying Twitter earlier this year, Musk has pledged to be a champion for free speech on the platform, saying he would loosen some of Twitter’s content moderation rules. He has reversed suspensions for several right-wing commentators who had previously been banned for breaking Twitter’s rules, including former U.S. President Donald Trump.
The View From Germany
Germany’s Foreign Ministry on Friday called out Twitter and Musk for infringing on press freedom rights.
"#FreedomOfThePress must not be switched on and off at will,” the ministry tweeted. “As of today, the journalists below can no longer follow, comment or criticize us. We have a problem with that.”