Britain on Tuesday said Twitter “must be responsible” following its purchase by Elon Musk, amid concerns it could overly relax content moderation policies under the controversial billionaire entrepreneur.
Musk, the world’s richest man, struck a deal Monday to buy Twitter for £35 billion ($44 billion, 41 billion euros), and has vowed to take a robust free speech stance on the social media platform.
That has stoked fears it will become a host for hate and propaganda and leave the onus on users to combat bullying and misinformation.
“Regardless of ownership, all social media platforms must be responsible and that includes protecting their users from harm on their sites,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.
“Obviously, it is too early to say what, if any changes, will be made to how Twitter operates,” he added, noting the site remains an important tool used by world leaders.
“We will continue to work with them to make sure it continues to improve.”
The UK government last month introduced draft legislation to improve online safety, which includes new measures to protect users, in particular children, from harmful content such as pornography and cyber-bullying.
Failure to comply could see online firms face fines up to 10 percent of their annual global turnover, if the bill is passed by parliament.
Tech bosses who fail to cooperate and comply would also run the risk of criminal prosecution and jail terms of up to two years, the government has said.
“All companies in (the) scope of the bill will have to balance protecting their users and the importance of upholding free speech,” Johnson’s spokesman said Tuesday.
But he added: “We are certainly unified on the fact that we want to strengthen and defend freedom of expression.”
His comments comes as the European Union warned Musk that Twitter under his ownership will have to “totally adapt” to the 27-member bloc’s own new laws curbing the power of big tech expected to come into force in the coming months.
Lawmakers there are finalising the Digital Services Act, which will set limits on content, and the Digital Markets Act, which will limit the ways tech giants do business.