Elon Musk Says He Is ‘Exactly Aligned’ with Censorious European Union on Internet Speech

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 02: Elon Musk attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America:
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Tech billionaire Elon Musk seemingly kowtowed to the European Union on internet freedom of speech, declaring that he is “exactly aligned” with the bloc’s regulations on online expression.

Despite Elon Musk’s stated commitment to bringing free speech principles back to the internet following his successful buyout offer of Twitter, he appeared to backtrack on such a standard following a meeting with Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, who has spearheaded efforts to introduce more limits on internet speech within the EU.

On Monday, Mr Breton shared a video from the Tesla plant in Austin, Texas, following a meeting with Musk, in which the eurocrat said that he had explained the outlines of the Digital Services Act (DSA) that is set to require social media platforms and other sites to regulate “hate speech” or other “harmful” content as well as so-called “disinformation”.

Once implemented the DSA could see the companies such as Twitter face fines of up to six per cent of their global revenue.

In a slightly stuttering statement standing alongside the DSA architect, Musk said: “I very much agree with… it’s been a great discussion… I really think… I agree with everything you said, really. I think we are very much of the same mind and anything that my companies can do that will be beneficial to Europe, we want to do that.”

Musk said that the DSA is “exactly aligned with my thinking.”

Breton, a former French finance minister, had previously warned Mr Musk of falling afoul of speech codes in Europe, saying after the news of the Tesla owner’s attempted takeover of Twitter: “Elon, there are rules… You are welcome but these are our rules. It’s not your rules which will apply here.”

The eurocrat has long demanded more government censorship of the internet. Following the January 6th unrest at the Capitol Building in Washington DC, the French politician said that it was a result of the alleged proliferation of “hate speech, incitement to violence, disinformation and destabilization strategies” on social media.

Breton, therefore, called for the Biden administration to “join forces, as allies of the free world” to craft a “new global approach to online platforms”.

“Just as 9/11 marked a paradigm shift for global security, 20 years later we are witnessing a before-and-after in the role of digital platforms in our democracy,” he argued.

While Mr Musk didn’t outline precisely what he agreed with the censorious regulation in EU’s Digital Services Act, he has previously stated that he is against “censorship that goes far beyond the law.”

“If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people,” Musk said last month.

It is unclear if Musk means that he is planning to have differing standards of censorship for places with free speech enshrined into law such as in the United States, and other standards for countries without such protections.

The question of the people’s will is dubious in the case of the European Union, as outsized power has been bestowed onto unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, meaning that such censorship legislation could be imposed on the citizens of member states that do not agree with curtailing speech.

The undemocratic decision making of the EU Commission was one of the principal reasons why the people of the United Kingdom voted in 2016 to leave the bloc, in order to “take back control” of their own lawmaking.

Yet, despite leaving the bloc in 2020, the United Kingdom is preparing to enact similar legislation curtailing speech on the internet to that of the European Union, under the impending Online Safety Bill. Like the EU’s DSA, the UK is planning on imposing large fines, up to 10 per cent of a company’s global revenue, for failing to police “harmful content” on the internet.

Earlier this month the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the House of Commons summoned Mr Musk to explain his vision for free speech for Twitter and for MPs to impress upon the billionaire the “new obligations to protect Twitter’s users from online harms” that the UK is planning to mandate.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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