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Updated Dec 18, 2023, 5:48pm EST
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EU tests its new disinformation rules by targeting Elon Musk’s X

Insights from Center for Countering Digital Hate, Euractiv, and Raidió Teilifís Éireann

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Elon Musk
REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
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The European Union has opened two infringement cases against X over suspected failure to combat content disinformation and manipulation.

It is the first probe under the bloc’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which requires large online platforms to rigorously mitigate the risk of misinformation and hate speech while upholding free speech concerns, failing which companies risk facing fines of up to 6% of their global annual revenues.

The European Commission said that a review of X’s moderation policies raised concerns about the site’s spread of “illegal content in the context of Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel” and the “deceptive design” of user interface, specifically the so-called blue checks.

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Watchdog hails EU move, critics call it Western propaganda

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Sources:  
Center for Countering Digital Hate, Hu Xijin, Brian Krassenstein

“X is no longer a platform on which users can find reliable information quickly,” said Imran Ahmed from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a hate speech watchdog that X owner Elon Musk is suing for driving away advertisers. Ahmed pointed to his group’s research which shows X is “unwilling or unable” to properly take down hate speech since Musk bought it. But EU critics say the probe pushes Western propaganda. The EU is targeting X for “allowing the spread of true information that’s not conducive to the image of US & West,” wrote Hu Xijin, the former editor-in-chief of Chinese state tabloid The Global Times. Left-leaning political commentator Brian Krassenstein, who got tens of thousands of dollars under X’s ad-revenue sharing program for creators, said the EU’s “hindering” of X is “much worse” than the United States’, adding that X worked to combat hate speech in “a more democratic way than most other platforms” through features like community notes and labeling of sensitive content.

Musk would rather remove X from EU than follow DSA

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Sources:  
Euractiv, Business Inisder, The Guardian

The EU and X have been on a “collision course” since Musk bought it last year, with the DSA’s “risk management approach” clashing with the billionaire’s political and business agenda, EU policy news site Euractiv reported. Recent reports suggest that Musk is debating whether to pull X entirely from Europe to avoid increasing scrutiny and DSA regulations. Europe remains “a rather marginal market” for X, Euractiv noted, with active users dropping since Musk’s takeover. Tech observers also say that Threads’ launch in Europe – long delayed because of EU privacy laws – could prove “another blow” to X and serve as an X replacement if Musk pulls out of Europe.

National regulators struggle with language barriers, staffing, and noncompliance

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Source:  
Raidió Teilifís Éireann

The DSA does not let the EU decide what hate speech is, but rather empowers users to flag potentially harmful content and lets authorities and regulators determine if the content breaks laws, Irish state broadcaster RTE reported. This caveat was tested when Irish authorities urged X and Meta to take down incendiary posts fueling Dublin’s anti-immigrant riots last month. Those efforts were complicated by a lack of Irish-speaking content moderators at the platforms. Ireland’s national regulator is now on a hiring spree to keep up with the DSA’s requirements of policing the country’s major platforms, but officials have singled out X for not engaging with authorities and meeting DSA’s obligations during the riots.

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