Elon Musk’s social media company, X, was the subject of a formal inquiry launched by the European Union on Monday. The investigation focused on X’s alleged failure to prevent the spread of false information and illegal content, as well as its lack of advertising transparency and “deceptive” design techniques.
Since Musk acquired the site, once known as Twitter, last year, X has loosened its content filtering procedures. This investigation is arguably the biggest regulatory action against X to date. Researchers claim that the company’s new regulations have increased the amount of inflammatory content on the platform, forcing advertisers to reduce their advertising.
The EU is pursuing X for the first time with the authority it acquired following the passing of the Digital Services Act last year. The bill grants authorities enormous new authority to compel social media firms to screen their platforms for hate speech, false information, and other contentious material. The new regulation also applies to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and other platforms.
The executive arm of the 27-nation union, the European Commission, had indicated that it intended to investigate X’s business operations in greater detail. Authorities opened a preliminary investigation into the dissemination of “terrorist and violent content and hate speech” on X following the commencement of the Israel-Hamas war in October.
The executive vice president of the European Commission in charge of digital policy, Margrethe Vestager, stated in a statement that “the evidence we currently have is enough to formally open a proceeding against X.” “The commission will thoroughly examine X’s adherence to the DSA to guarantee the protection of European citizens on the internet.”
X declared that it “continues to be dedicated to adhering to the Digital Services Act and is assisting with the regulatory procedure.”
The inquiry reveals a significant distinction in internet policing between the US and Europe. Because of free speech rights, online posts are essentially unrestricted in the United States, but because of cultural and historical factors, governments in Europe have placed greater limitations on hate speech, violent incitement, and other damaging content.
The EU attempted to force businesses to set up processes to more consistently abide by laws pertaining to such content online with the Digital Services Act.
The declaration The probe has no end in sight; it starts on Monday. Requests for further evidence from X and interviews with external parties are anticipated components of the investigation. Should the Digital Services Act be proven to have been broken, the corporation would face fines as high as 6% of its worldwide sales.
Following his takeover of the network, Musk reorganized its content moderation procedures, abolished the trust and safety council, and allowed a large number of previously banned users to return. Since then, many studies have been released that show an almost immediate increase in hostile posts and antisemitic content.
The nonprofit Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which tracks extremism and misinformation, discovered that following Musk’s takeover, the number of English-language antisemitic posts on X more than doubled. The European Commission discovered that following Musk’s lifting of mitigating measures at the beginning of this year, contact with pro-Kremlin accounts increased by 36%.
This summer, a wave of natural calamities occurred all throughout the world, and on X, false information about climate change quickly proliferated. X received a single point out of a potential 21 on a scorecard assessing social media businesses for their efforts against misinformation about climate change.
According to EU officials, X might not be abiding by regulations requiring online platforms to take swift action when notified of illegal and vile content, including antisemitism and the promotion of violence and terrorism. In accordance with the law, businesses must also evaluate and reduce the danger of harmful content spreading throughout their platforms.
Officials expressed concerns about X’s content control procedures in languages other than English, especially in light of the upcoming 2024 elections across the continent.
The probe will also look into X’s attempts to stop the spread of misleading information. The company uses a tool called Community Notes, which allows users to provide context to posts that they think contain false information. However, EU regulators have stated that this strategy might not be enough. Regulators will also investigate the methods used to amplify the visibility of postings made by X users who have paid for authentication, indicated by a blue check mark.
The probe will assess the EU’s capacity to compel major internet companies to alter their operations. In May, Musk, a vocal supporter of free speech rights, removed X from the EU’s voluntary code of conduct meant to counter misinformation.
Following the EU’s initial investigation in October, Musk pushed officials to provide proof of illegal content on X. He asked, “Please list the violations you allude to on X, so that they are visible to the public.”