A top European Union official is warning Elon Musk about the spread of misinformation on X amid the Israel-Hamas war. EU Commissioner Thierry Breton sent Musk about the company’s handling of misinformation and its responsibilities under the Digital Services Act.
The letter comes as researchers and fact checkers have warned about of misinformation on X in the wake of the Hamas attacks in Israel. While Musk’s recent move to from links shared on the platform has made it more difficult to find news, verified users have also been sharing of completely unrelated content purporting to be scenes from the unfolding conflict.
“Following the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel, we have indications that your platform is being used to disseminate illegal content and disinformation in the EU,” Breton wrote in the letter to Musk. “Let me remind you that the Digital Services Act sets very precise obligations regarding content moderation.”
Following the terrorist attacks by Hamas against 🇮🇱, we have indications of X/Twitter being used to disseminate illegal content & disinformation in the EU.
— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) October 10, 2023
In particular, Breton called out the spread of “fake and manipulated images and facts circulating on your platform in the EU, such as repurposed old images of unrelated armed conflicts or military footage that actually originated from video games.” He also flagged the company’s newly-changed policy, saying that the change “left many European users uncertain” about what type of content the platform allows.
Breton also suggested X was not responding appropriately to requests to deal with “potentially illegal content,” on its platform. “When you receive notices of illegal content in the EU, you must be timely, diligent and objective in taking action and removing the relevant content when warranted,” Breton wrote. “We have, from qualified sources, reports about potentially illegal content circulating on your service despite flags from relevant authorities.”
X didn’t respond to a request for comment, but Musk issued a brief reply on X. “Our policy is that everything is open source and transparent, an approach that I know the EU supports,” Musk . “Please list the violations you allude to on X, so that that [sic] the public can see them.”
The company, which recently its misinformation-reporting tool safety teams tasked with handling disinformation, has pointed to its crowd-sourced fact-checking tool, Community Notes, as its primary way of addressing misinformation.
In posted shortly after Breton shared the letter, the company said that “more than 500 unique notes” had been created over the last three days, including notes addressing “fake videos made with game simulators” and other “out of context” and “unrelated” footage. X added that it’s “actively working on” changes “that will help automatically show notes on even more posts with matching video and images” and that it’s “scaling up” notifications for people who previously engaged with content later fact-checked with a note. The company didn’t say how many users have received such notifications.
It’s not the first time European Union officials have raised concerns about the amount of disinformation on X. An last month found that X had the highest prevalence of misinformation and disinformation. Under the Digital Services Act, companies like X are required to disclose details about their handling of disinformation.