EU opens probe into X over Israel-Hamas war misinformation

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The EU has opened an investigation into X, formerly Twitter, over the way illegal content and disinformation of terrorist and violent content is spreading on its platform in the wake of the attacks by Hamas against Israel.

EU officials have sent a series of questions that the social media platform must answer by next week, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The formal probe, which is the first to be launched under the newly approved Digital Services Act, comes days after EU commissioner Thierry Breton wrote to billionaire Elon Musk raising concerns that the platform was “being used to disseminate illegal content and disinformation”.

Failure to reply or a submission of incomplete or misleading information by X could lead to periodic penalties or fines amounting to up to 5 per cent of the company’s daily global turnover, the people said.

EU investigators are also seeking to find out how X is preparing to react during a “crisis” and the protocol it has in place to deal with misinformation. The company is required to reply to the commission by the end of the month.

The move marks the first time regulators in Brussels are exercising the powers of the DSA, which set out how big tech should police the internet and aims to keep European citizens safe online.

The bloc’s probe comes after concerns were raised over the proliferation on X of misinformation related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, leading to posts that included graphic images and that gathered millions of views.

Under the EU rules, X is considered a “very large online platform” with special responsibilities when it comes to monitoring content on the web.

On Tuesday, Breton warned Musk that the company must introduce “proportionate and effective mitigation measures” to deal with disinformation.

“We have, from qualified sources, reports about potentially illegal content circulating on your service despite flags from relevant authorities,” Breton added.

Responding to the commissioner’s letter, Musk wrote: “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.”

The commissioner, who is the enforcer of the DSA, replied: “You are well aware of your users’ — and authorities’— reports on fake content and glorification of violence. Up to you to demonstrate that you walk the talk.”

X is not the only company under pressure by the EU. On Thursday Breton also wrote to TikTok to remind them of their responsibilities within the DSA and to ramp up enforcement.

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