June 12, 2024

EU Issues Warning to X Over Illegal Content After Hamas Attacks

The EU has issued a public warning to Elon Musk’s platform, X (formerly Twitter), for failing to address illegal content and disinformation circulated on the platform in the aftermath of the recent Hamas attacks on Israel.

This reflects the commitment of the EU regarding its recently updated content moderation regulations.

The body has expressed concerns about the spread of disinformation related to the terrorist attacks and their corresponding impact.

The Digital Services Act (DSA) of the EU called X “Very Large Online Platform”, and stated that it was obliged to mitigate risks stemming from the spread of false information and act diligently on the same.

Since the attacks by Hamas commenced, graphic videos depicting terrorist attacks on civilians have been circulating on X.

Some of these videos are footage from video games that falsely claim to be visuals depicting the attack. Fact-checking teams have identified these posts as false and unrelated to the conflict.

Musk’s Approach to Modifying Policies Backfires

The problem for Musk lies in the DSA, which regulates how social media platforms should respond to reports on disinformation and illegal content.

The changes that Musk introduced to X, like modifying the Blue Tick system to be pay-to-play and ending legacy account verification, have made it more challenging for users to find quality information.

The platform has also downsized its in-house enforcement teams while outsourcing the responsibility for dealing with issues like disinformation to users through Community Notes.

Moreover, Musk withdrew X from the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation. This further strained the relationship of the social media platform with EU regulators.

Thierry Breton, the internal market commissioner of the EU, wrote an ‘urgent’ letter to Musk, sharing his concern that X may be in breach of the DSA. The clash between the EU and Musk has been brewing for quite some time.

The EU also reserves the power to shut off access to X in the region if the platform consistently fails to follow the stipulated norms.

The penalties imposed for DSA breaches can be as high as 6% of the global annual turnover of the offending company.

Breton reminded Musk of the obligations of the DSA regarding content moderation, including the need to be objective and diligent while addressing illegal content. Asking Musk to contact the relevant authorities, the EU stated, “Ensure that you respond promptly to their requests”.

The DSA demands transparency and clarity in how platforms handle their rules. This is particularly relevant when it comes to content related to violence or terrorist attacks. Breton focused on the need for “proportionate and effective mitigation measures” to curb disinformation.

The EU Gives X a 24-Hour Deadline, Musk Responds

Musk has a 24-hour deadline to respond to the requests raised by the EU. Breton concluded the letter by warning Musk of potential penalties for non-compliance.

Evidently, the EU’s rulebook comes at odds with the new management style adopted by Musk. This is inevitably leading to a clash.

Musk engaged in a public exchange with journalist Glenn Greenwald on X while responding to the warning. He retaliated to the allegations, questioning the practicality of judging disinformation independently.

He also stated that fact-checkers often make false statements. This further brings the growing tension between X and EU to the limelight.

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