EU Issues Urgent Warning to Elon Musk’s X for Illegal Content and Disinformation Amid Hamas Attacks

In a rapid test of the European Union’s recently updated content moderation guidelines, the EU has issued a stern warning to Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter) for its failure to address the spread of illegal content on the platform following the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip.

The European Commission has expressed concerns about the dissemination of disinformation on X related to the recent terrorist attacks and their aftermath. While disinformation itself is not illegal in the EU, the Digital Services Act (DSA) places an obligation on X, as a large online platform, to mitigate the risks associated with harmful falsehoods and act diligently on reports of illegal content.

Graphic videos depicting terrorist attacks on civilians have been circulating on X since the attacks, along with other content that fact-checkers have identified as false. This chaotic situation has been described in a Wired report as “The Israel-Hamas War Is Drowning X in Disinformation.”

One concerning aspect is that Musk himself recommended following accounts that posted antisemitic comments and false information, though he later deleted the tweet. The problem for Musk is that the DSA regulates how social media platforms must respond to reports of illegal content and imposes legal obligations on larger platforms like X to address disinformation.

Since taking over Twitter, Musk has made several changes that have drawn attention and criticism, including ending legacy account verification and modifying content moderation policies. He has also removed X from the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation.

In an “urgent” letter to Musk, the EU has signaled its belief that X may be in violation of the DSA, and this is not the first time Musk has received such a warning. Penalties for DSA breaches can be as high as 6% of global annual turnover, and the EU also has the power to shut off access to X in the region if the platform repeatedly fails to comply.

Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, outlined the EU’s concerns in his letter, emphasizing the need for X to promptly and objectively remove illegal content in the EU and ensure transparency regarding its rules and their application. He also highlighted X’s obligation to have effective measures in place to combat disinformation.

The EU has given Musk 24 hours to respond to its requests, with potential penalties for non-compliance. Musk’s management style, which has deviated significantly from the EU’s expectations, may lead to a challenging outcome for both parties.

We reached out to X for a response to the EU’s concerns about DSA compliance, but the company had not responded at the time of writing, offering only its standard automated reply. Musk, however, engaged with the news of the EU’s warning on X, responding to a critical tweet with a call for transparency and suggesting that fact-checking may not be the solution it’s touted to be.

In another tweet, Musk commented on a screengrab of an apparent exchange of threats between Iran’s supreme leader and an official Israeli government account, highlighting the irony that his changes to Twitter’s verification system have made it difficult to verify the authenticity of such exchanges.

This clash between Musk and the EU highlights the growing tension between digital leaders and regulatory bodies, with the outcome remaining uncertain.

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