Thursday 12 October 2023

EU threatens Elon Musk with investigation of X over alleged 'illegal content and disinformation' regarding Hamas' terrorist attacks

 The European Union recently threatened Elon Musk with a potential investigation into X, formerly Twitter, over alleged "illegal content and disinformation" regarding Hamas' terrorist attacks against Israel.

On Tuesday, European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton shared a letter on X addressed to Musk demanding that he ensure the platform complies with the EU's Digital Services Act

According to the EU, the DSA aims to "create a safer digital space" and "establish a level playing field to foster innovation, growth, and competitiveness." The regulations require platforms to remove illegal content and so-called hate speech and disinformation.

Before the law took effect in August, Musk permitted the EU to conduct a "stress test" on X to assess initial compliance. In June, Breton stated that the platform's "work needs to continue" to meet the new strict requirements.

In Breton's Tuesday letter to Musk, he stated, "Following the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel, we have indications that your platform is being used to disseminate illegal content and disinformation in the EU." 

Breton reminded Musk of his platform's "obligations" to comply with the DSA.

"First, you need to be very transparent and clear on what content is permitted under your terms and consistently and diligently enforce your own policies," he continued. "This is particularly relevant when it comes to violent and terrorist content that appears to circulate on your platform. Your latest changes in public interest policies that occurred over night left many European users uncertain." 

Breton stated that X must be "timely, diligent and objective in taking action" to remove illegal content.

"We have, from qualified sources, reports about potentially illegal content circulating on your service despite flags from relevant authorities," he alleged.

Additionally, Musk was told he must have "effective mitigation measures" in place to address "risks to public security and civic discourse stemming from disinformation."

"Public media and civil society organisations widely report instances of fake and manipulated images and facts circulating on your platform in the EU, such as repurposed old images of unrelated armed conflicts or military footage that actually originated from video games," Breton said.

Musk was directed to partner with law enforcement and Europol to ensure compliance. He was given 24 hours to respond to the EU's requests.

"I remind you that following the opening of a potential investigation and a finding of non-compliance, penalties can be imposed," Breton concluded.

Musk responded to Breton on X, writing, "Our policy is that everything is open source and transparent, an approach that I know the EU supports. Please list the violations you allude to on X, so that that (sic) the public can see them. Merci beaucoup."

Breton told Musk it is up to him to "demonstrate that you walk the talk."

"You are well aware of your users' — and authorities'— reports on fake content and glorification of violence," Breton stated. "My team remains at your disposal to ensure DSA compliance, which the EU will continue to enforce rigorously."

Musk asked Breton to list the alleged violations.

"We take our actions in the open," he replied. "No back room deals. Please post your concerns explicitly on this platform."

In another X post, Musk claimed, "I still don't know what they're talking about!"

X's safety team reported Sunday that it had taken several steps to protect the platform following the recent terror attacks against Israel, including removing newly created Hamas-affiliated accounts and continuing to monitor for anti-Semitic speech.

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