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Europe’s digital ‘enforcer’ takes EU tech rulebook to Silicon Valley

Thierry Breton flies to US to warn Twitter’s Elon Musk and Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg to fall in line with EU law.

The European Union is firing a last warning shot at Silicon Valley titans ahead of the incoming rules to police social media platforms.

Europe’s digital Commissioner Thierry Breton is set to give Meta and Twitter’s top management an in-person reminder that the clock is ticking to comply with the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA). The law starts applying in late August and will oblige major tech platforms to fight back against online hate speech, illegal content and disinformation.

While Twitter’s Elon Musk and Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg square off on social media over a prospective cage fight, Breton, who as the internal market commissioner oversees EU services regulating Big Tech, is starting a two-day trip to California to push the EU’s new rules.

Breton is meeting Musk and Twitter’s new Chief Executive Officer Linda Yaccarino on Thursday, and Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg as well as artificial intelligence chiefs Sam Altman, chief executive officer of ChatGPT’s OpenAI, and Jensen Huang, who runs the leading microchips designer Nvidia, on Friday. 

The French politician previously described himself to POLITICO as “the enforcer” representing “the will of the state and the people.” He said ahead of his trip that “all companies operating in Europe, including U.S. firms, will soon have to apply our new rules on AI, online platforms and data, everywhere in Europe,” adding he is on the U.S. west coast to “help U.S. tech firms get ready for it.”

Over a dozen large tech companies including Twitter, Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, Google’s YouTube and TikTok will have to respect new legal obligations to crack down on things like disinformation, cyberbullying and threats to public health and safety by the fall. By the end of August, these so-called very large online platforms (with over 45 million users in the EU) have to hand the Commission a first detailed assessment of their major risks for users.

The European Commission could start investigations into firms that aren’t complying, with potential fines going as high as up to 6 percent of a company’s global revenues.

Twitter — which has put itself in Europe’s crosshairs ever since the takeover of controversial entrepreneur Musk — has also accepted letting Commission officials check how prepared they currently are with the DSA, in what Breton is calling “stress tests.”

But with the DSA deadline looming, the Commission faces its own hurdles. A team of around 150 case officers and data scientists is rushing to get ready to enforce an untested and unprecedented law. And, as with Europe’s other competition and tech laws, Big Tech’s army of lawyers is expected to challenge the EU’s enforcement in court.

Breton on Friday will meet Zuckerberg, Altman and Huang to pitch a new Commission initiative called the AI Pact, a voluntary, nonbinding commitment of tech firms to stick to certain principles when developing AI technologies.

The pact would be a forerunner to the EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act, an upcoming law that would create requirements of transparency, security and human oversight for AI tools considered “high-risk” that is expected to come into force in 2025 or 2026. 

Zuckerberg already flew to Brussels earlier this week to discuss another AI initiative, the Code of Conduct, with Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager.

Source: Foreign Policy