In a concerning development, a senior European Union official has issued a stark warning to Elon Musk regarding the proliferation of disinformation on X, particularly in the midst of the Israel-Hamas war. EU Commissioner Thierry Breton penned an “urgent” letter to Musk, expressing deep reservations about how the platform is managing misinformation and emphasizing the responsibilities dictated by the Digital Services Act. The cautionary letter arrives in the wake of mounting concerns from researchers and fact-checkers who have noted a surge of disinformation on X related to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.
Rising Concerns of Disinformation Amid Israel-Hamas War
As the Israel-Hamas conflict unfolded, a wave of misinformation began to sweep across X. While Musk’s recent action to remove headlines from shared links was aimed at combating misinformation, the platform has seen verified users circulating viral clips of completely unrelated content, misleadingly presented as scenes from the real-time conflict; these developments raised red flags, leading EU Commissioner Thierry Breton to assert that X is being exploited for disseminating illegal content and disinformation within the EU.
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
Concerns Over Content Moderation
In his letter to Musk, Breton pointed out the dissemination of “fake and manipulated images and facts” on X, much of which included repurposed old images from unrelated conflicts and military footage originating from video games. Breton also expressed concerns about X’s recently revised public interest policy, which created uncertainty among European users about the type of content the platform permits. Additionally, Breton criticized X for not responding adequately to requests to address “potentially illegal content,” highlighting the need for timely, diligent, and objective actions to remove such material.
X’s response to the letter remains a topic of interest, with Musk indicating that their policy is centered on openness and transparency. The company’s approach hinges on its crowd-sourced fact-checking tool, Community Notes, as the primary means of addressing misinformation, particularly “fake videos made with game simulators” and other out-of-context and unrelated content. As this issue continues to unfold, X is actively working on improving its notification system for users engaged with previously fact-checked content, aiming to provide greater transparency and reliability in a climate plagued by disinformation.