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European Commissioner Thierry Breton warns Elon Musk: “In the EU there are regulations to follow” | International

“We have finalized our Digital Services Directive just in time,” says the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, with a half smile during a brief meeting with EL PAÍS held this Tuesday in his office in Brussels. “Just in time”, he refers, for the landing on Twitter of Elon Musk, who reached an agreement on Monday with the leadership of the social network to take over the company for 41,000 million euros and who, therefore, in Soon the weight of the new European regulatory package for digital markets, whose negotiation was concluded in Brussels last Friday, will fall with all its force.

“I have something to say to Elon Musk,” adds Breton. “Just as I tell everyone: we are an open continent.” In the EU, he assures him, “you are welcome to benefit from this market, the largest in the world. But he remembers: you have to do it openly and under conditions”.

These new conditions have been harshly and intensely negotiated for more than a year – with Commissioner Breton as one of its architects and most ardent supporters. The European Parliament and the Council (the body that represents the twenty-seven capitals of the EU) finally reached an agreement last Friday on the aforementioned Digital Services Directive (DSA), which thus joins the pact reached at the end of March on the Digital Markets Directive (DMA), thus giving definitive shape to the great regulatory package for internet platforms, technological giants and digital activity that the EU had proposed for this legislature. After the political agreement of both, it is expected that in the coming weeks it will be formally ratified.

The DMA, according to Breton, affects “the economic part, against predatory behavior or monopolies.” The DSA, he adds, aims to “organize social life in these information spaces, just as it is organized in the physical world.” The French commissioner acknowledges that this latest legislation “was missing” and its arrival “is good news for everyone.” This regulation, he continues, implies that “we have conditions to respect certain things that we consider extremely important in Europe: freedom of expression, the rule of law, respect for the individual, protection of children.” And continuing with what he would say to the tycoon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, slim advisor to Tesla and also to the Space X space rockets: “Do you want to enter our market? Marvelous. But this is the regulation that you have to follow.”

The DSA establishes transparency and access obligations on the algorithms of the large digital platforms (Twitter among them), proposes the rapid removal of illegal content, the protection of fundamental rights (such as restrictions on the use of data based on race or religion) or establishes fines that, in the case of the technological giants, can reach up to 6% of their global income. “You can do whatever you want outside of Europe,” says Breton. “But for Europe, the biggest market in the world, you need to organize yourself in this way to be welcome.”

After the agreement for the purchase of the social network was made public, Musk yesterday posted a message on Twitter in which he assured: “Freedom of expression is the basis of a democracy that works, and Twitter is the digital town square in which Vital issues for the future of humanity are being debated.” He also said that he hoped his “worst critics” would continue to use the platform, “because that’s what freedom of expression means.”

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The news has sparked speculation about a possible return to this network of former United States President Donald Trump, whose account was suspended in January 2021 due to “the risk of further incitement to violence” during the assault on Capitol Hill.

Asked about this matter, Breton considers that the EU could easily lead to a return of Trump to Twitter. “Of course,” he replies. He assures, in any case, that a decision like that could not be taken in the EU. “I was impressed that a simple council can make this decision, because it can have a democratic impact. This cannot happen in Europe. If you want to ban a person, you need to protect them too.”

Appropriate procedures must be followed, he says, to guarantee the rights of the people concerned, but not to adopt the decision in a unilateral and non-transparent manner. “It is not a council that can do it, so there is democratic control.” The result, of course, can turn out to be the same, whether it’s with Trump or anyone else. “If what he was doing was illegal in terms of content, of course it would be banned. But not as if it was a decision of the king.”

The Commissioner for the Internal Market also wanted to address a message to its new owner via Twitter: “Whether it’s cars or social networks, any company operating in Europe must comply with our rules, regardless of its shareholding”, He wrote this Tuesday. “Mr. Musk knows this well. He is familiar with European automotive regulations and will quickly adapt to the Digital Services Directive.”

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