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EU official: Musk could face sanctions after journalists’ suspension


European officials rebuked Twitter and Elon Musk on Friday after the social media company abruptly suspended several U.S. journalists.

European Commission vice president Věra Jourová, whose brief includes the rule of law and disinformation, tweeted that the “arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying.”

“EU’s Digital Services Act requires respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced under our #MediaFreedomAct,” she wrote. “@elonmusk should be aware of that. There are red lines. And sanctions, soon.”

Twitter suspended on Thursday night the accounts of several journalists, including from The Washington Post, the New York Times, and CNN. Musk later accused the reporters of posting “basically assassination coordinates” for him and his family — although he provided no evidence any of the journalists had done so.

The suspensions came a day after Twitter changed its rules to prohibit the sharing of “live location information” or other information that could show someone’s location. The rule change came after Twitter suspended the account of @ElonJet, which tracked the flights of Musk’s private plane using publicly available flight data.

Several journalists who had been covering and tweeting about the rule change and Musk’s claims were then locked out of their own accounts.

Musk bans Twitter account tracking his jet, threatens to sue creator

The EU’s Digital Services Act seeks to force tech companies to more aggressively police their platforms for illegal content and be more transparent about how their content moderation systems work. Companies will need to start reporting some information early next year, but the legislation doesn’t fully kick in until 2024.

Europe has often imposed stricter rules and cracked down more harshly on tech companies than other governments. The DSA is considered to be one of the most expansive regulations on social media to date. Musk has met with Thierry Breton, the internal markets commissioner, about getting Twitter ready for the law.

But the billionaire has also dismantled much of Twitter’s trust and safety team, which helped craft and enforce the rules users must follow on the site.

Other criticism on Friday came from the German foreign ministry, which took to Twitter to warn the company that it takes freedom of the press seriously.

“Freedom of the press must not be switched on and off at will,” it tweeted. “As of today, the journalists below can no longer follow, comment or criticize us. We have a problem with that @Twitter.”

Musk took over Twitter in a $44 billion deal in late October, pledging to make the site a haven for “free speech,” much to the encouragement of some right-wing politicians and pundits who have accused social media companies, often baselessly, of censoring them in recent years.

Musk’s short time leading the company has been marked by upheaval. He has gutted Twitter’s workforce, disbanded an outside trust and safety council and reinstated numerous previously banned accounts, including that of former president Donald Trump.

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