EU Launches Investigation Into X Over Alleged Disinformation


In a significant development, the European Union (EU) has initiated an investigation into X, a major online platform, over allegations of spreading illegal content and disinformation. The investigation comes on the heels of the EU’s warning to X regarding its failure to take appropriate action against illegal content following the recent Hamas terrorist attacks in the Gaza Strip. This probe marks the first investigation conducted under the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which mandates that large online platforms like X ensure the reduction of disinformation risks and promptly address reports of illegal content.

Key Takeaway

The European Union has launched an investigation into X for its alleged dissemination of illegal content and disinformation. This move reflects the EU’s commitment to combatting the spread of false information and ensuring online platforms fulfill their responsibilities.

False Content Surrounding Recent Attacks

In the wake of the attacks, X faced criticism for the circulation of false posts purporting to depict footage from the attacks in Israel and subsequent Israeli retaliation in the Gaza Strip. However, fact-checkers quickly debunked such content, revealing that some videos originated from unrelated events, such as a video game, or were filmed in Egypt last month. These incidents highlight the challenges faced by X in effectively moderating its platform.

Content Moderation Challenges at X

X has faced numerous challenges in its content moderation efforts, particularly due to a reduction in staff dedicated to overseeing such tasks. Notably, the company underwent significant layoffs last year, which affected departments responsible for content moderation, including its human rights team. This downsizing was initiated as part of an effort by X CEO Elon Musk to improve the platform’s profitability.

EU’s Warning and Requests to X

Prior to launching the investigation, EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, issued a warning to Musk, highlighting “indications” that X was being used to spread illegal content and disinformation within the EU. Breton emphasized the need for X to promptly remove such content and reminded the company of its obligations under the DSA. The EU requested that Musk engage with relevant law enforcement authorities and Europol and provided a strict deadline for response, including adherence to DSA compliance.

Response from X CEO and Current Situation

In response to the warning, X CEO Linda Yaccarino released a letter stating that a leadership group had been formed to assess X’s response. She also mentioned the removal of numerous pieces of content, posts, and accounts associated with terrorist groups, violence, and extremism. Yaccarino affirmed X’s cooperation with law enforcement requests, but clarified that no requests had been received from Interpol at that time.

Scope of Content Generated and Investigation Timeline

X reported that more than 50 million posts referencing the weekend’s terrorist attack were shared worldwide over the past two days, underscoring the sheer volume of content generated. As the investigation commences, X is required to provide the EU with information regarding its crisis response protocol by October 18. Additionally, the company must respond to other related requests by October 31. Failure to comply with the EU’s deadlines may result in fines and penalties. The investigation encompasses X’s compliance with the DSA, focusing on its policies for handling notices about illegal content, complaint management, risk assessment, and the implementation of measures to mitigate identified risks.

Background on X and Disinformation

Earlier this year, Musk withdrew X from the EU’s Code of Practice on online disinformation. Responding to this action, Breton emphasized that even without participation in the voluntary code, X remains obligated to meet certain obligations. The EU has placed a particular spotlight on X for its disinformation spreading activities, rating it as the worst platform for this issue compared to other major platforms like TikTok and Meta.

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