By John Chalmers
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Union’s internal market chief said on Tuesday that Elon Musk could adapt Twitter as he wishes after he acquires the social media site but warned the billionaire that the bloc has strict rules for online platforms to tackle illegal content.
“It will be up to Twitter to adapt themselves … to our rules,” Thierry Breton told Reuters and one other media outlet on the deal sealed on Monday by Tesla’s chief executive to buy Twitter for $44 billion.
“I think Elon Musk knows Europe very well. He knows very well that we have some rules for the automotive industry … and he understands that. So in Europe, in order to protect freedom of speech and to protect individuals, any companies will have to fulfill this obligation.”
Musk, the world’s richest person, calls himself a free speech absolutist and has criticised Twitter’s moderation of a hugely influential platform that is populated by millions of users and global leaders.
The EU has rules under which content forbidden offline is also forbidden online, Breton said.
Under a Digital Services Act (DSA) agreed by the EU’s 27 member states and lawmakers last week, Alphabet unit Google, Meta and other large online platforms will risk hefty fines if they do not control illegal content.
Breton said big platforms of more than 45 million users would have to have more moderators than smaller ones, including moderators in every European language, and they would have to open their algorithms to regulators.
Under the DSA, big tech companies face fines up to 6% of their global revenue for violating the rules while repeated breaches could see them banned from doing business in the EU.
The new rules ban advertising aimed at children or based on religion, gender, race and political opinions.
Critics of Musk’s takeover of Twitter fear it will mean less moderation and the reinstatement of banned individuals, including former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Breton said he had no intention of interfering in the Trump question because such matters would now be regulated in Europe and company boards would not have a say.
“Remember, the information space does not belong to any private company,” he said. “The information space is part of our responsibility as politicians. Like territorial space … airspace, our digital space is our responsibility to organize.”
(Reporting by John Chalmers; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)