French minister for the digital economy Cedric O in Paris, May 29 2020. Picture: LUKOVIC MARIN / AFP
French minister for the digital economy Cedric O in Paris, May 29 2020. Picture: LUKOVIC MARIN / AFP

Twitter would be welcome to move to France should the social media platform face an adverse operating environment in the US, French junior digital affairs minister Cedric O said in an interview with Radio J on Sunday.

“If Twitter would consider at some point that the US circumstances would no longer allow the company to develop according to its values and to continue to expand, and if there would be too much instability for various reasons, the company would obviously be welcome in Europe, and particularly in France,” O said.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order that seeks to limit liability protections for social media companies after Twitter began selective fact checks of his posts on the platform. Twitter labelled two of the president’s posts about mail-in voting “potentially misleading” and provided links to news coverage of his comments.

Trump has accused the social media company of censorship and election interference and threatened to possibly shut down the service.

France’s digital affairs minister said he has not been in touch with Twitter, though he said France would be “extremely happy” to welcome the company. But he said, “I don’t think we’re there yet.”

He extended an invitation to entrepreneurs and researchers in the US looking for a technology- and business-friendly home, touting Europe and France as open to a “certain idea of the internet and its regulation, a more humane and fair internet”.

“To all those entrepreneurs I say, welcome to France, come over.”

Reuters reported earlier that in addition to disputing misleading claims made by Trump about mail-in ballots, Twitter has added fact-checking labels to thousands of other tweets since introducing the alerts earlier in May, mostly on posts about the coronavirus.

The company does not expect to need additional staff for the undertaking, Twitter spokesperson Liz Kelley said on Saturday. Nor is it partnering with independent fact-checking organisations, as Facebook and Google have, to outsource the debunking of viral posts flagged by users.

Social media platforms have been under fierce scrutiny over how they police rapidly spreading false information and other types of abusive content since Russia exploited the networks to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election.

Fact-checking groups said they welcomed Twitter’s new approach, which adds a “get the facts” tag linking to more information, but said they hoped the company would more clearly lay out its methodology and reasoning.

On Friday, CEO Jack Dorsey acknowledged the criticism, saying he agreed fact-checking “should be open source and thus verifiable by everyone”. In a separate tweet, Dorsey said more transparency from the company was “critical”.

The company’s move to label Trump’s claims about mail-in ballots separates it from larger competitors such as Facebook, which declares its neutrality by leaving fact-check decisions to third-party partners and exempts politicians’ posts from review.

“To a degree, fact checking is subjective. It’s subjective in what you pick to check, and it’s subjective in how you rate something,” said Aaron Sharockman, executive director of US fact-checking site PolitiFact, who said Twitter’s process was opaque.

Twitter telegraphed in May that its new policy of adding fact-checking labels to disputed or misleading coronavirus information would be expanded to other topics.

After tagging Trump’s tweets, Twitter that it was now labelling misleading content related to election integrity. Kelley said the team is continuing to expand the effort to include other topics, prioritising claims that could cause people immediate harm.

Twitter said the company’s trust and safety division is tasked with the “legwork” on such labels.


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