By September, Twitter will have to be in line with tough new European rules governing—among other things—online disinformation. Twitter will have to demonstrate how it’s fighting disinformation on its service and, if it fails, it could be fined up to 6% of global revenues. We know this is all good with CEO Elon Musk because the man himself said last May that the incoming Digital Services Act (DSA) was “exactly aligned” with his thinking.
So Musk must be terribly disappointed to see that his company has flunked its first EU disinformation test. Last year, all the big social media firms voluntarily signed up to a code of practice on disinformation, and this morning they published their first reports on what they’re doing to fight the scourge. Twitter’s report did not impress the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, which will be directly enforcing the DSA beginning later this year.
“I am disappointed to see that Twitter report lags behind others and I expect a more serious commitment to their obligations stemming from the Code [of practice],” said Věra Jourová, the Commission’s transparency chief. “Russia is engaged also in a full-blown disinformation war and the platforms need to live up to their responsibilities.”
“It comes as no surprise that the degree of quality [of the reports varies] greatly according to the resources companies have allocated to this project,” sniped Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton. “It is in the interest of all signatories to abide by their commitment to fully implement the Code of practice against disinformation, in anticipation of the obligations under the Digital Services Act.”
Specifically, the Commission said the report that Twitter produced was “short of data”—just compare its many empty fields with Google’s comprehensive offering—and included “no information on commitments to empower the fact-checking community.” The Commission clearly wasn’t satisfied with the part of the report that sang the praises of Community Notes, the feature that lets Twitter users add context to potentially misleading tweets; Twitter insisted this was “an inherently scalable and localized response to the challenge of disinformation.”
The DSA will also force Twitter to give vetted researchers access to data that will help them analyze “online systemic risks.” In its disinformation report, Twitter made many references to its “industry-leading API program,” which researchers have for years been using to probe its data—but Twitter is in the process of revamping that program. As I wrote earlier this week, the changes could threaten researchers’ access to Twitter’s data. Thanks to the firm’s current allergy to clear communications, researchers don’t know for sure how serious the threat to their work is, but many are assuming the worst.
It’s clear that Europe’s top regulators are already deeply annoyed at Twitter’s will-this-do approach to the disinformation challenge, which could spell serious trouble down the road. But don’t think this is just a European concern.
A team of German, British, and Dutch researchers said yesterday that Americans are also keen on disinformation being taken down from social media—substantial majorities of U.S. survey respondents said they favored the deletion of posts including climate-change denial, Holocaust denial, election denial, and anti-vaccination content.
“Our results show that so-called free-speech absolutists such as Elon Musk are out of touch with public opinion,” said study co-author Stephan Lewandowsky, of the University of Bristol. “People by and large recognize that there should be limits to free speech, namely, when it can cause harm.”
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Data Sheet’s daily news section was written and curated by Andrea Guzman.
Were you silent or were you silenced? For about half an hour Wednesday, Twitter users got a note saying they were over the daily limit for sending tweets. The Twitter glitch prevented users in the U.S. and Canada from posting, sending Twitter's engineering teams into a frenzy as they worked on the error. Fortune viewed emails Elon Musk sent to Twitter staff around the time of the outage, which directed them to pause new feature development.
“Love is sharing a password.” Netflix is taking a 180 from its tweet years ago encouraging account sharing and will require users in Canada, New Zealand, Spain, and Portugal to pay more if they share an account with someone outside of their household. In a conference call with investors last month, CEO Greg Peters said this rollout may come with “a bit of cancel reaction” but that it’ll be similar to what the company sees when it raises prices. Already, people aren’t taking too kindly to the policy. Some say they have children away at college who are part of their household and others on social media say they like signing into new devices while traveling.
Time for an update. The latest iOS 16 update for the iPhone offers ways to keep data safe from hacks and breaches. It includes features like lockdown mode, which limits apps and message attachments and offerings for advanced data protection that increases the data types that will be end-to-end encrypted. They’re not turned on by default, and may not be the right move for your needs, the Washington Post reports. But at a minimum, everyone should use strong passwords and turn on two-factor authentication.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The latent costs of layoffs. The number of weeks of salary that a laid-off worker receives in severance payments has long stood as the standard yardstick for measuring how well companies treat their employees during layoffs. But today's layoff packages include a mix of other perks. Layoff packages offered by Microsoft, Meta, and others include things like scheduled bonuses and stock options. In all, some of the largest companies have spent more than $7 billion on layoffs.
From the article:
Although layoffs are touted as cost-saving measures, they often incur sizable short-term expenses because companies must pay for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of severance packages at once. 'Layoffs are expensive from day one. And before they save an employer money, they cost a bundle,' writes Fortune’s Geoff Colvin.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
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The new Bing is out. A Microsoft exec weighs in on how it will make money, by Jessica Mathews
Elon Musk’s cost cutting at Twitter reaches the next level after layoffs and stiffing landlords. Now he wants to dump pricey software used by his employees, by Kylie Robison
The top 5 investment apps for beginners, by Lucy Brewster
Robinhood’s crypto business continues to decline during crypto winter as customers steer clear of trading, by Ben Weiss
‘Big Short’ investor Michael Burry compares stock market to dotcom bubble in a cryptic tweet, by Will Daniel
BEFORE YOU GO
Where to? As the rest of the tech industry copes with a downturn, Uber saw revenue growth driven by ridership increases. Trips during the final three months of 2022 reached 2.1 billion, the highest the rideshare app has ever seen in a quarter. Uber is aiming to keep its momentum, with CFO Nelson Chai saying the company has set itself up “for yet another record year.” Lyft’s results are coming later today, and it’s expected to see a year-over-year increase in earnings.
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