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Elon Musk’s X receives urgent EU warning over illegal content and disinformation after Hamas attacks

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After Hamas terrorists in Gaza killed Israelis on Saturday, the EU quickly warned Elon Musk-owned X (formerly Twitter) for failing to remove illegal content.

Disinformation on X about the terrorist attacks and their aftermath has also worried the European Commission.

Disinformation is not illegal in the EU, unlike terrorism. However, the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) requires X, a “very large online platform,” to mitigate harmful falsehood risks and investigate illegal content reports.

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Since Saturday, graphic videos of terrorist attacks on civilians have circulated on X, along with other content, including some posts that claim to show footage from Israel’s attacks or retaliation on Gaza Strip targets, which fact-checkers have debunked.

After Hamas militants in Gaza broke through border fences and launched a series of surprise attacks on Israeli civilians and tourists, Israel’s prime minister declared “we are at war” and fired scores of missiles into Gaza.

Several videos posted to X since the attacks have been found to be unrelated to the conflict, including footage from Egypt last month and a video game clip that falsely claimed to show Hamas missile attacks on Israel.

“The Israel-Hamas War Is Drowning X in Disinformation.” Wired reported yesterday on Musk’s platform’s chaos.

Musk even suggested following accounts that had posted antisemitic and false information, but he later deleted the tweet.

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Musk has a problem because the DSA regulates how social media platforms and other user-generated content services respond to terrorism reports.

Larger platforms like X must mitigate disinformation risks by law. So the fast-moving and bloody events in Israel and Gaza are testing whether the EU’s rebooted rulebook can handle X’s most notorious shitposter. Who owns the platform since fall.

X has become the biggest target for DSA enforcement since Musk took over Twitter (as it was then) due to his changes that make it harder for users to find quality information.

This includes ending legacy account verification and making Blue Check pay-to-play. He’s also ripped up legacy content moderation policies and cut in-house enforcement teams while promoting a decentralized, crowdsourced alternative (rebranded as Community Notes), which apparently outsources disinformation to users in another gambit to eke out extra engagement and farm confusion by applying extreme relativism to encourage culture warriors.

He also removed X from the EU’s Code of Practise on Disinformation earlier this year, clearly mocking EU regulators.

Musk urgent letter
The EU’s internal market commissioner Thierry Breton shared a “urgent” letter to Musk today, sending the strongest signal yet that Musk’s platform violates the DSA. This is not Musk’s first warning.

Some industry watchers have predicted a rule of law clash between Musk and the EU since last year’s rumors of Musk’s plan to take over Twitter.

Penalties for DSA violations can reach 6% of global annual turnover. The bloc has extremis powers that could shut down X in the region if it repeatedly goes off course. Musk may face serious consequences for his highly indebted company if he fails to satisfy EU regulators.

Breton wrote to Musk that the EU has “indications” that X is being used to spread illegal content and disinformation in the EU after Saturday’s attacks. He then reminds the company of the DSA’s “very precise obligations” in content moderation.

When you receive notices of illegal content in the EU, you must act quickly, diligently, and objectively to remove it. We have, from qualified sources, reports about potentially illegal content circulating on your service despite relevant authority flags.”

He also criticizes X’s last-night change to its public interest policy, which judges newsworthiness (i.e., whether posts that violate its rules should remain on the site) but has left “many European users uncertain” (i.e., about how X is applying its own rules).

Again, this is a problem because the DSA requires platforms to disclose their rules and application. Another pointed warning from Breton: “This is particularly relevant when it comes to violent and terrorist content that appears to circulate on your platform.”

X should have “proportionate and effective mitigation measures” to address “the risks to public security and civic discourse stemming from disinformation,” he says.

Instead, the platform appears to be becoming a disinformation engine that has quickly spread toxic fakes about the Israel-Hamas war. Falses that may manipulate opinion about the conflict or exploit horrific events for clickbait or more nefarious, cynical, and potentially harmful purposes.

Many EU public media and civil society organizations report fake and manipulated images and facts on your platform, such as repurposed old images of unrelated armed conflicts or military footage from video games. Breton says this is clearly false or misleading. “I therefore invite you to urgently ensure that your systems are effective, and report on crisis measures taken to my team.”

Asking Musk to fight disinformation is like asking the sea to stop moving. However, this is how the regulatory dance must go, followed by the denouement, which is enforcement if a DSA breach is confirmed. Musk may find it harder to troll actual penalties).

Meanwhile, the EU has advised Musk to contact law enforcement and Europol and “ensure that you respond promptly to their requests.” Breton also says his team will contact Musk’s team “shortly” about unspecified DSA compliance issues “with a specific request.”. (We’ve asked the EU about other X concerns and will update this report.)

The bloc has given Musk 24 hours to respond to its questions, and his response will be added to its DSA compliance assessment file. Breton concludes the letter: “I remind you that following the opening of a potential investigation and a finding of non-compliance, penalties can be imposed.

We’ve asked the Commission if it’s investigating X’s DSA compliance based on the letter’s concerns. Perhaps it will wait a day to see his reaction before dancing again.

The EU’s rulebook requires digital leaders to be responsive and responsible, but Musk’s iterative or erratic management style makes it hard to see how this conflict will end well for either side.

We asked X to respond to the EU’s DSA compliance warnings, but the company only responded with its usual automated reply: “Busy now, please check back later.”

However, Musk had already danced with the EU’s warning by responding to journalist Glenn Greenwald’s critical tweet about the EU’s new “censorship law,” which he called the DSA, which he claimed would “punish X.”

In response to Greenwald, Musk urged relativism, writing: “Let the public hear exactly what this disinformation consists of and decide for themselves.”

He then implied that fact-checking is just a convenient way to target different opinions, echoing Greenwald’s position, by claiming that “many times” the “official fact-checker” has been found making false statements, before offering a rhetorically empty “Maybe this is the case here, maybe not” for plausible deniability.

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Musk wrote: “Amazing to see this exchange!” in response to an X user’s comment on a screengrab of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and an official Israeli government account’s apparent exchange of threats about the war.

Ironically, Musk’s destruction of Twitter’s legacy verification of notable accounts makes it impossible to verify the exchange at a glance.

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As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

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