Europe, Get Off Our Speech Lawn
by Matt Taibbi | Oct 12, 2023
The European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, has sent letters to Mark Zuckerberg of Meta and Elon Musk at X, demanding they comply with the EU’s sweeping new Internet regulation, the Digital Services Act.
Both Breton letters contained passages complaining of platform failure to remove “illegal content,” a concept that is surely coming to the U.S. soon, if we don’t put up a fight. From the letter to Zuckerberg:
I would ask that you be very vigilant to ensure strict compliance with DSA rules on terms of service, on the requirement of timely, diligent, and objective action following notices of illegal content in the EU, and on the need for proportionate and effective mitigation measures.
The equivalent line in the Musk letter:
When you receive notices of illegal content in the EU, you must be timely, diligent, and effective in taking action and removing the relevant content when warranted. We have, from qualified services, reports of potentially illegal content circulating on your service.
I don’t think it’s enough for Zuckerberg and Musk to reject Breton. I think they should hire Louis C.K. and have him flown to Brussels to tell Breton in person, American-style, to eat a bag of d—:
Breton advertised his ultimatum to both firms, tweeting that he wrote Musk because “following the terrorist attacks by Hamas against [Israeli flag emoji], we have indications of X/Twitter being used to disseminate illegal content & disinformation,” while to Zuckerberg he claimed the motive involved “tackling disinformation in elections in the EU.”
I don’t often go on jingoistic rants, but my tolerance for European bureaucrats in smart glasses instructing Americans what to do on civil liberties questions is zero. The Digital Services Act is a grotesque, nakedly authoritarian law written in language so obnoxious in its pompous inscrutability that it would have impressed Orwell or Huxley. Breton’s mention of “qualified sources” is a reference to the law’s most heinous and dystopian portion, the so-called “trusted flagger” program, which puts a clutch of elitist NGO busybodies in charge of poring through content to decide for the rabble what is untrue or “harmful,” as a means of “defending European norms.”
Does one of those “European norms” involve politicians spending a generation patronizing American-developed Internet technology (including, one presumes, porn sites) before turning around after decades and telling American Internet companies how and by whom they should submit to European-chosen decency committees? Silicon Valley execs should respectfully invite the EU to launch its own fully-policed Deutschebook platform, send a middle finger emoji back over the pond, and spend the rest of the day blowing up IKEA shelf units with M-80s in their office parking lots.
One of the major subplots of the new “censorship-industrial complex” era involves the lead role Europe has assumed in implementing draconian speech laws, its leaders opining with imperious certainty that its restrictive conceptions of speech will be brought to the United States, whether we like it or not. If you haven’t seen the video of European Commission VP Věra Jourová at the World Economic Forum telling the nodding cucktastic toady-moderator Brian Stelter about “illegal hate speech, which you will have soon also in the U.S.,” I recommend taking a downer or two before you watch the following. You will want to race outside and start running Saabs off the road:
American citizenship comes with bad features as well, but a thing that is and always has surely been good about being born in the U.S. is our instinctive disinclination to letting anyone tell us what to do. Our national story moreover specifically revolves around refusing to let Europeans tell us what to do.
Thierry Breton wants Americans to police speech at his say-so? He can put on his tri-cornered hat, sail over here, and make us. Right? Doesn’t anyone have a spine anymore?
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