The European Union (EU) has sent official requests to Meta and TikTok for information about their response to content relating to the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The panel’s decisions carry significant weight under the recently passed Digital Services Act (DSA), which gives European Commissioner Thierry Breton broad authority to impose heavy fines on the tech behemoths. It follows a move last week to open an investigation into X (formerly Twitter).
The Commission is asking Meta for more information about what it’s done to mitigate illegal content and misinformation related to the ongoing violence in the Middle East. The TikTok request specifically calls out “the spreading of terrorist and violent content and hate speech” and misinformation on the platform. In addition, the Commission wants additional information from TikTok about “its provisions related to the protection of minors online,” and from Meta related to how it’s protecting election integrity.
“By pointing out the responsibility of platforms — and their CEOs — in the management (or lack of management) of illegal content distributed on their platforms, we are sending out a very explicit signal: things have changed in Europe,” Commissioner Breton said in a related speech Wednesday to Parliament. “There is a law. It must be respected.”
Both companies have until October 25 to respond to Middle East crisis questions and November 8 for the other issues. From there, the European Commission will “assess next steps.”
Although affluent Big Tech corporations may have calmly skirted similar requests without consequences in the recent past, the DSA gives the Commission legally binding enforcement power that can carry fines of up to six percent of a company’s global turnover. That’s enough to serve as an effective “stick” against the infringing companies. “With the DSA, we have a complete toolbox that we must make full use of to achieve our goal: to ensure that online security is guaranteed and fundamental rights are fully protected,” said Breton.