European Union Investigates X Over Content Moderation Failures in the Wake of Israel-Hamas War

The European Union (EU) has initiated an investigation into X, formerly known as Twitter, for its inadequate management of illegal content and disinformation during the Israel-Hamas conflict. This development comes shortly after EU Commissioner Thierry Breton sent an urgent inquiry to X owner Elon Musk, seeking information about the company’s handling of misinformation. The formal investigation marks the first use of the newly implemented Digital Services Act (DSA), which obliges platforms operating in Europe to actively moderate and remove harmful content and imposes substantial fines as a means of enforcement.

EU authorities have forwarded a series of queries to X, and the company must respond by October 18. The EU Commission states that its subsequent actions will be contingent on the assessment of X’s replies. The DSA, enacted in 2022, mandates that social media firms take proactive measures in content moderation and removal of illicit content. Failure to comply could result in recurring fines or penalties, with X potentially facing penalties of up to “five percent of the company’s daily global turnover,” according to the Financial Times.

In light of the Israel-Hamas hostilities, researchers and fact-checkers have raised concerns about the widespread dissemination of misinformation on X. Commissioner Breton’s letter on Tuesday conveyed his concerns about harmful content on the platform, signaling his readiness to employ the full extent of the DSA’s enforcement capabilities. He wrote, “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. Let me remind you that the Digital Services Act sets very precise obligations regarding content moderation.”

Musk’s response to Breton carried a hint of sarcasm. “Our policy is that everything is open source and transparent, an approach that I know the EU supports,” wrote the owner of X and Tesla CEO. “Please list the violations you allude to on X so that the public can see them. Merci beaucoup.” In response, Breton stated, “You are well aware of your users’ — and authorities’ — reports on fake content and glorification of violence. It is up to you to demonstrate that you walk the talk.”