The European Union on Monday announced a formal investigation into X, the social media platform owned by Elon Musk, accusing it of failing to combat illicit content and misinformation, a lack of transparency in advertising and “misleading” design practices.
He consultation It is perhaps the most substantial regulatory action to date against X since it scaled back its content moderation policies after Musk bought the service, once known as Twitter, last year. According to researchers, the company’s new policies have led to an increase in inflammatory content on the platform, causing brands to reduce advertising.
In pursuing X, the European Union is for the first time using the authority gained after last year’s passage of the Digital Services Act. The law gives regulators sweeping new powers to force social media companies to police their platforms for hate speech, misinformation and other divisive content. Other services covered by the new law include Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube.
The European Commission, the executive branch of the 27-nation bloc, had signaled its intention to take a closer look at X’s business practices. In October, regulators launched a preliminary investigation into the spread of “terrorist and violent content and hate speech.” ” in X after the start of the conflict between Israel and Gaza.
“The evidence we currently have is sufficient to formally open proceedings against X,” Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president who oversees digital policy, said in a statement. “The Commission will carefully investigate X’s compliance with the DSA, to ensure that European citizens are protected online.”
x saying “remains committed to complying with the Digital Services Act and is cooperating with the regulatory process.”
“X is focused on creating a safe and inclusive environment for all users of our platform, while protecting freedom of expression, and we will continue to work tirelessly to achieve this goal,” the company said.
The research highlights an important difference between the United States and Europe in Internet surveillance. While online publications are largely unregulated in the United States as a result of free speech protections, European governments, for historical and cultural reasons, have placed more restrictions around hate speech, incitement to violence and other harmful materials.
The Digital Services Act was an attempt by the EU to force companies to establish procedures to more consistently comply with rules regarding such online content.
Monday’s announcement is the start of an investigation with no specified deadline. The investigation is expected to include interviews with outside groups and requests for more evidence from X. If found guilty of violating the Digital Services Act, the company could be fined up to 6 percent of global revenue.
When Musk took control of the platform, he disbanded its trust and safety board, reviewed its content moderation practices, and welcomed dozens of banned users to the platform. Dozens of studies published since then have described a almost instantaneous Increase in anti-Semitic content and hate posts.
The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a nonprofit focused on monitoring extremism and disinformation, found that anti-Semitic posts in English more than doubled in X after Musk arrived. The European Commission found That engagement with pro-Kremlin accounts grew 36 percent earlier this year after Musk lifted mitigation measures.
As a series of natural disasters occurred around the world this summer, misinformation about the weather spread widely in X. A scorekeeper The evaluation of social media companies awarded X a single point out of a possible 21 for its work defending against climate-related falsehoods.
EU officials said X may not comply with rules requiring online platforms to respond quickly after becoming aware of hateful and unlawful content, such as anti-Semitism and incitement to violence and terrorism. The law also requires companies to conduct risk assessments on the spread of harmful content on their platforms and mitigate it.
Officials raised concerns about X’s content moderation policies in languages other than English, particularly as continent-wide elections approach in 2024.
Additionally, the investigation will examine X’s efforts to address the spread of false information. The company relies on a feature, called Community Notes, that allows users to add context to posts they believe are misleading, an approach that EU officials say may not be enough. Regulators will also study ways to give more visibility to posts from X users who pay to be authenticated, marked with a blue check mark.
The investigation will test the EU’s ability to force large internet platforms to change their behaviour. Musk has been an outspoken supporter of free speech rights and, in May, he removed X from the EU’s voluntary code of practice aimed at combating disinformation.
In October, after the EU launched its preliminary investigation, Musk challenged regulators to share evidence of unlawful content on X. “Please list the violations you allude to on X, so the public can see them,” he said .
Stuart Thompson contributed reports.