EU warns Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk over spread of disinformation on Meta, X

Elon Musk is being warned by the European Union that he could face fines over his social media company X's spread of disinformation about the Israel-Hamas war. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
1 of 2 | Elon Musk is being warned by the European Union that he could face fines over his social media company X's spread of disinformation about the Israel-Hamas war. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 10 (UPI) -- The European Union warned Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg that their social media companies could face fines if they don't stop dissemination of disinformation about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

In the letter addressed to Musk, Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner responsible for the 27-member bloc's newly enacted Digital Services Act, said the world's richest man has obligations under the legislation to mitigate the spread of disinformation. If he does not comply, X -- the social media company formerly known as Twitter -- could face a fine as high as 6% of its revenue.


Breton issued a similar notice in a letter addressed to Zuckerberg, co-founder of Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram.

"Following the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel, we are seeing a surge of illegal content and disinformation being disseminated in the EU via certain platforms," he wrote. "I would ask you to be very vigilant to ensure strict compliance with the DSA rules on terms of service, on the requirements of timely, diligent, and objective action following notices of illegal content in the EU, and on the need for proportionate and effective mitigation measures."


Breton also said the EU had "noted steps taken by Meta to increase mitigation measures in the run-up to the recent elections in Slovakia -- such as increased cooperation with independent authorities."

The Digital Services Act was enacted in late August with the aim to create an online environment that is safe and protects fundamental rights.

It specifically requires social media platforms offering its services on the continent to not only take measures to address risks connected to the dissemination of illegal content but also enforce a mechanism for users to flag such posts and act upon the requests expeditiously.

"Let me remind you that the Digital Services Act sets very precise obligations regarding content moderation," Breton said in the letter.

The letter was sent as X has come under criticism over numerous posts carrying false information about the Israel-Hamas war in the wake of Hamas' surprise Saturday attack and Israel's ongoing bloody response that together have claimed the lives of more than 900 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis.

Musk, himself, has also been the target of such criticism after he directed his more than 159 million followers to two accounts known for spreading antisemitism and disinformation. The tweet in question by Musk has since been deleted.


It was also sent after X made changes to its Public Interest Policy over weekend, removing the requirement to have at least 100,000 followers to be considered so-called newsworthy.

Musk, who bought the platform late last October for $44 billion, has made substantial changes that extend far deeper than simply a rebranding. The self-proclaimed free speech absolutist made a number of controversial changes, such as charging for the verified blue badge, which was once designated for journalists and people of note, and allowing formerly banned accounts, including that of former President Donald Trump, to be reinstated.

Breton on Tuesday said Musk's latest changes have "left many European users uncertain" about content they are seeing on X, and he needs "to be very transparent and clear on what content is permitted" and to diligently enforce his own policies.

He continued that they have received reports about potentially illegal content circulating on X despite it being flagged by relevant authorities.

"Public media and civil society organizations widely report instances 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," Breton said.


"You need [to] have in place proportionate and effective mitigation measures to tackle the risks to public security and civic discourse stemming from disinformation."

Musk was given 24 hours to respond.

On X, Musk defended his company's policies, stating "everything is open source and transparent," while asking Breton to "list the violations you allude to" to allow the public to see them.

Breton responded by saying Musk is aware of reports of fake content and "glorification of violence" being spread on X.

"Up to you to demonstrate that you walk the talk," Breton said.

"My team remains at your disposal to ensure DS compliance, which the EU will continue to enforce rigorously."

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