Elon Musk’s Twitter account is seen on a smartphone superimposed over printed Twitter logos in this April 28, 2022, file photo.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

A senior European Union official had a warning for Elon Musk on Friday about his $44 purchase Twittertelling the billionaire he would have to play by the rules.

After a cryptic tweet from Musk suggesting he had completed the Twitter acquisition, Thierry Breton, the European commissioner for the internal market, warned Musk that he would have to comply with the bloc’s new digital regulations.

“The bird has been released,” Musk tweeted. In response, Breton quoted Musk on Twitter as saying: “In Europe, the bird will fly by our rules.”

Although not officially confirmed, a spokesperson for crypto exchange Binance, which provided Musk with equity financing for the Twitter takeover, said on Friday that the transaction had closed.

Musk, one of Twitter’s most popular users, is known for tweeting everything from announcements about Tesla and his other companies to memes and attacks on his critics.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO has previously called himself a “free speech absolutist” and says he wants to reform Twitter as a “digital town square” with fewer restrictions on what users can say.

This will have implications for how content is moderated on Twitter, a key concern for regulators seeking to rein in the digital giants over the spread of hate speech and misinformation online.

Under the European Union’s recently approved Digital Services Act, major tech companies will have to have robust content moderation systems in place to ensure they can quickly remove illegal material such as hate speech, incitement to terrorism and child sexual abuse.

For his part, Musk said he will not allow illegal content on the platform.

The EU rules are expected to take effect by 2024. Companies can be fined up to 6% of global annual revenue for violations.

Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the European Parliament, said on Friday that “the need for rules and accountability is greater than ever”.

“So one man @elonmusk now owns the biggest debate in the world…” he tweeted. “Social media self-regulation has never worked … even with weaker characters than his.”

Breton, the former CEO of French IT consultancy Atos, is seen as a key architect of the European Union’s digital reforms. Along with the Digital Markets Act, which seeks to curb the dominance of internet giants, the Digital Services Act is part of a bold plan by the bloc to regulate big tech.

In May, Musk and Breton met in person, and Musk said then that the Digital Services Act was “exactly aligned with my thinking.”

But regulators on both sides of the Atlantic worry that Musk could, for example, allow former President Donald Trump back on the platform. Musk, who previously said he would lift the ban on Trump’s account, reportedly intends to remove lifetime bans of Twitter users, according to Bloomberg.