Thierry Breton Finds Support in Zuckerberg, Musk, Altman, More

Sam Altman appreciates the E.U.'s leadership in 'taking this issue so seriously before the rest of the world did.'

European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton has spent the last week meeting with Big Tech chief executives including Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Sam Altman to discuss compliance with E.U. regulations. Breton hopes Zuckerberg, Musk, Altman and the rest of Big Tech will commit to following E.U. rules governing artificial intelligence (AI) before the bloc begins enforcing them.

European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton is talking to media in the Berlaymont, the EU Commission headquarter on June 15, 2023 in Brussels, Belgium. Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Europe is preparing to enforce the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act, laws that address disinformation, content moderation and market competition. Under the DSA, large internet platforms have to begin fighting disinformation on their sites by on August 25 or face fines of up to 6 percent of their annual revenue. The E.U. is also negotiating provisions for the AI Act to regulate artificial intelligence in the E.U. The AI Act isn’t expected to be operative for at least two years. Breton wants companies to voluntarily comply much earlier by signing the AI Pact, a nonbinding agreement outlining transparency and accountability measures.

“Finding the balance between protecting freedom of speech and preventing disinformation cannot simply be left to a platform’s goodwill,” Breton said.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai agreed to the AI Pact in May. Breton has lobbied media and technology executives at Meta (META), Twitter, Snap and OpenAI on the AI Act. He met with Eleni Kounalakis, the Lieutenant Governor of California, on June 22, and is traveling to Asia this week to meet with Korean and Japanese government officials. TikTok is participating in a voluntary “stress test” in July to evaluate how the company responds to posts that the E.U. considers problematic. Breton is especially concerned about fighting pro-Russian propaganda as many European elections approach.

Elon Musk and Linda Yaccarino, Twitter

The regulator visited Twitter headquarters and met with Twitter owner Elon Musk and CEO Linda Yaccarino on June 22. While there, an E.U. technology team conducted a voluntary stress test on the platform. Twitter took the exercise “very seriously,” Breton tweeted, and didn’t reveal the outcome of the test, but said Twitter still has work to do.

“Europe is very important to Twitter and we’re focused on our continued partnership,” Yaccarino tweeted. The official Twitter account representing the company’s global government affairs department said the company is on track to comply with the DSA by August 25.

Mark Zuckerberg, Meta

After meeting with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Breton said, “Move fast to fix things,” playing on Zuckerberg’s motto when building Facebook (“Move fast and break things“). The commissioner spoke with Zuckerberg in San Francisco on June 23.

Breton said Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, appears well-positioned to comply with the new content moderation rules. With 1,000 Meta employees working on the DSA, Breton feels the company’s preparedness is “on its way.” Zuckerberg and Breton agree on the E.U.’s stance on regulating artificial intelligence, including a risk-based approach and labeling, or watermarking, AI-generated content. Breton says Meta can improve disinformation efforts in Eastern Europe. Meta will participate in a stress test in July.

Meta “shared our support for the objectives of the AI Pact,” announced Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs. While Meta’s executive team still needs to look at the details of the pact, Clegg said the company recognizes the importance of transparency and collaboration.

Sam Altman, OpenAI

Open AI CEO Sam Altman, who developed ChatGPT, has been outspoken about the dangers of AI, calling on lawmakers to regulate. Altman and Brenton had a productive conversation on watermarking in San Francisco on June 23.  The commissioner didn’t indicate the status of OpenAI’s compliance, but Altman expects OpenAI will follow the new rules “well in advance” of the deadline. Breton says he and the OpenAI CEO “are well-aligned.”

Altman appreciates the European Union’s leadership and “the foresight on taking this issue so seriously before the rest of the world did.”

Evan Spiegel, Snap

Snap co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel met with Breton in Brussels today (June 26) to discuss how Snapchat, the photo-sharing app owned by Snap, is getting ready to comply with the laws. Brenton didn’t disclose how effective Snap’s current services are but was “very pleased with the conversation.”

Thierry Breton Finds Support in Zuckerberg, Musk, Altman, More