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EU warns Elon Musk of ‘penalties’ for disinformation circulating on X amid Israel-Hamas war

today 10/11/2023

European officials have cautioned Elon Musk, the owner of the company formerly known as Twitter, that the platform may have been hosting misinformation and illegal content related to the Hamas-Israel conflict. This potential violation of the European Union's content moderation law, known as the Digital Services Act (DSA), could result in substantial fines for X. The letter from Thierry Breton, a top European commissioner, addressed to Musk, emphasized the company's obligations regarding content moderation and expressed doubts about its compliance.

The letter also highlighted the significant legal exposure X faces due to the proliferation of false claims associated with the war. Breton suggested that many of these problematic contents have emerged under Musk's supervision. The recent change in X's Public Interest Policy, making it easier for accounts to qualify for newsworthiness exceptions, raised concerns about the removal of violent and terrorist content from the platform. Breton emphasized that X must act swiftly in removing content flagged by relevant authorities to comply with the DSA. Failure to do so could result in penalties. Musk responded on X, stating that the platform follows an open-source and transparent policy, requesting a list of the alleged violations. The EU letter coincides with the widespread dissemination of misinformation about the conflict on X, including a fake video resembling a BBC News report that falsely claimed evidence of Ukraine smuggling weapons to Hamas. X appended a label to the video acknowledging it as manipulated media but did not remove it.

Musk's changes to X's content moderation and policy teams have drawn criticism from civil society groups, who warn of an increased risk of misinformation and hate speech. His decision to eliminate traditional verification badges has also been criticized for undermining users' ability to verify the credibility of accounts, particularly during fast-moving news events. Additionally, Musk himself has contributed to the chaos by sharing and subsequently deleting a post recommending an account known for sharing misinformation.

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