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Germany asks the EU to curb Twitter under Musk

December 22, 2022

Twitter should be monitored by the European Commission like other tech firms amid free speech concerns, Berlin said. A top official said the company had been behaving erratically since its takeover by Elon Musk.

 Twitter logo seen in black on the awning of the building that houses the Twitter office in New York
Twitter has been surrounded by controversy since its takeover by Elon MuskImage: Mary Altaffer/AP/picture alliance

A senior German official on Thursday told the European Commission that the social media platform Twitter should be regulated under new EU rules on digital markets, saying the company posed a threat to free speech under its new owner, Elon Musk.

Sven Giegold, the state secretary in charge of competition policy at Germany's Economy Ministry, said that Twitter should be seen as a "gatekeeper" under the bloc's new Digital Markets Act, owing to its influence on public opinion. This classification would allow EU supervision to take place.

What else did Giegold say?

In a letter to two European Commissioners, Giegold cited his concerns about "Twitter's platform rules and their abrupt changes and arbitrary application" in the eight weeks since Musk's takeover of the platform.

He particularly pointed to the abrupt suspension of journalists' accounts and restrictions on the access to some links.

"The EU should use all the possibilities at its disposal to protect competition and freedom of speech on digital platforms," he said.

Giegold said banning journalists' accounts and restricting links to rivals "threaten not only free competition but also pose a risk for democracy as well as freedom of speech, information and the press."

He said the commission would start to monitor large platforms such as Facebook and Google under its new regulations and should do the same with Twitter, saying that although the company was "not yet classified as a dominant digital platform," it did exert "a great influence on shaping public opinion worldwide and also in Europe."

Elon Musk gesturing
Elon Musk is known for following his own whims with little regard for public opinionImage: JIM WATSON/AFP

What has happened at Twitter?

Since Musk took over the platform in October, paying $44 billion (€41.5 billion) for the company, there has been a series of controversies, notably one surrounding the suspension and later reinstatement of the accounts of journalists critical of the South African-born billionaire.

There have also been mass layoffs and the return of previously banned accounts, such as that of former US President Donald Trump.

Racist or other hateful tweets have also seen an upsurge, prompting several big advertisers to withdraw.

On Tuesday, Musk said he would stand by the results of a Twitter poll he himself instigated on whether he should stay on as CEO in which 57% of votes said he should step down.

However, many experts are doubtful whether he will follow through given his previous record of capriciousness.

Musk himself says it is only a question of finding the right successor.

"The question is not finding a CEO, the question is finding a CEO who can keep Twitter alive," Musk tweeted.

tj/jcg (AFP, Reuters)