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The only South African that Americans know of outside of Trevor Noah finally bought the company that he fought so hard not to buy.

Shortly after power shifted to Musk the company promised to reactivate Trump, begun to reek of 4chan, and people got fired. Quickly, the blue bird app is becoming the canary in the mine of anarchic hate speech.

But don’t get too comfortable. The Wild Wild Web still has enforcers in town.

The European Union’s competition czar has a message for Twitter’s new boss Elon Musk: We are watching you.

Since the Tesla CEO took ownership of the social network last week promising, among other changes, to loosen up rules around what people can post to Twitter, authorities in Europe have been standing by for any signs that Twitter may run afoul of European speech laws.

“There is a European rulebook, and you should live by it,” said Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president who oversees digital policy for the 27-nation bloc, in her first interview since Musk took over Twitter. “Otherwise, we have the penalties. We have the fines. We have all the assessments and all the decisions that will come to haunt you.”

Now that is what I call a seasonally appropriate threat. The Digital Services Act may end up being the saving grace that prevents Uncle Bubba from sharing from the grab bag of climate change denial, vaccine slander, and voter fraud conspiracy thoughts that so inspire the “what about my free speech?!?!?!” people.

[T]he law requires that large online platforms like Twitter be audited by outside experts to assess how harmful material, like the spread of disinformation, is being handled.

“They will have to make a systemic assessment of their services, whether they can be hijacked for undermining democracy or other harmful practices, or is the service itself harmful for people no matter their terms of service?” Vestager said.

I don’t know which law professor out there teaches a course on the intersection of international law, free speech, and censorship, but congratulations! Reality just wrote a hyper specific hypo for your final.

Do I really think a flimsy law is all it takes to get a billionaire to play by the rules? No. But considering that penalties for violating the Act carry fines up to 6% of the company’s annual worldwide revenue, it is hard to imagine that it won’t shape the terms of service and post standards enforcement in some way.

Just kidding — it’s already getting bad.

[R]esearchers have also noticed an uptick in hate speech on Twitter since Musk took the reins.

According to the Network Contagion Research Institute, use of the n-word increased 500% following Musk’s purchase. Researchers also noted that posts on extremist forums like 4chan are encouraging people to “test the limits” of Twitter’s tolerance for hate speech by posting derogatory remarks and seeing what happens.

I’ll vest some actual hope in the EU once the lawsuits start flying. Till then, you may want to consider making that Mastodon account you’ve been pushing off till later.

Top European Official: If Twitter Ignores The Law, Penalties Will ‘Haunt’ Elon Musk [NPR]

Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at cwilliams@abovethelaw.com and by tweet at @WritesForRent.

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