The European Union (EU) has issued a stern warning to billionaire Elon Musk, the owner of X (formerly known as Twitter), urging compliance with the recently enacted Digital Services Act (DSA). Along with the DSA, a comprehensive report revealed the extent of disinformation across the EU. The report revealed that the highest ratio of disinformation posts was on X and Facebook.
The Report’s Finding
In a groundbreaking report, analysts examined the prevalence of disinformation on social media platforms operating within the EU.
The study uncovered that X, previously known as Twitter, had the highest ratio of disinformation posts among significant platforms, with Facebook following closely behind.
These findings mark the first-ever assessment of posts considered illegal under the recently enacted DSA, which took effect in August.
A New Code
Despite their rankings, Facebook, Google, TikTok, Microsoft, and other tech giants have signed a new code of practice established by the EU – this commitment aimed to ensure that these platforms could swiftly align with the EU’s new legal framework.
However, X (Twitter) chose to exit the code of practice but remains obligated to comply with the new laws or face potential bans across the EU.
The Commissioner’s Response
European Commissioner Věra Jourová, responsible for implementing the anti-disinformation code, emphasized that “Mr Musk knows he is not off the hook by leaving the code of practice.”
She reiterated, “There are obligations under the hard law. So my message for Twitter/X is you have to comply. We will be watching what you do.”
Other Key Points of the Report
The report, spanning 200 pages, offers an overview of the steps taken by major platforms during the first six months of 2023 to prepare for DSA compliance.
It also sheds light on the behind-the-scenes efforts by platforms like Facebook to combat Russian propaganda, hate speech, and other forms of disinformation.
Jourová expressed concern over Russia’s persistent propaganda on social media, particularly in the lead-up to key elections in Slovakia and Poland.
She says, “The Russian state has engaged in the war of ideas to pollute our information space with half-truth and lies to create a false image that democracy is no better than autocracy.”
Microsoft, the owner of LinkedIn, prevented the creation of 6.7 million fake accounts and removed 24,000 pieces of fake content.
YouTube, owned by Google, reported the removal of over 400 channels associated with coordinated influence operations tied to the Russian-state-sponsored Internet Research Agency.
Fresh from a €345 million fine for breaching data protection rules concerning children, TikTok is actively working to comply with the DSA.
Their fact-checking efforts now encompass Russian, Ukrainian, and 17 other languages, including a partnership with Reuters news agency.
Google and META’s Play
Google removed advertisements from nearly 300 sites linked to “state-funded propaganda sites” and rejected over 140,000 political advertisers for failing identity verification processes.
Meta expanded its fact-checking network to include 26 partners across 22 languages within the EU, including Czech and Slovak.
Misinformation on Twitter
Referring to Elon Musk’s X, Jourová said, “Disinformation actors were found to have significantly more followers than their non-disinformation counterparts and tend to have joined the platform more recently than non-disinformation users.”
The report also highlighted that 37% of users chose not to share content when alerted to its potentially false nature, indicating the value consumers place on identifying disinformation.
EU’s Primary Concern
The EU’s primary concern remains the prevalence of Russian propaganda on social media, particularly in the context of upcoming elections.
Despite its recent fine, TikTok is actively cooperating with the DSA and expanding its fact-checking efforts.
A War of Ideas
The report underscored that Russia’s “war of ideas” persisted, with disinformation still widespread on major platforms.
Jourová emphasized that the Kremlin targeted specific countries like Slovakia as “fertile soil” for sowing division and undermining democracy.
A Significant Threat
Regarding future elections, including those for the European Parliament, Jourová cautioned the large platforms about the risk of disinformation.
She stressed that Kremlin propaganda constituted a significant threat, internally to Russians and externally to Europeans and the world, demanding a proactive response from major platforms.
Jourová said Russian propaganda is “a multimillion-euro weapon of mass manipulation aimed both internally at the Russians as well as Europeans and the rest of the world.
And we must address this. The very large platforms must address this risk.”
Topics for Propaganda
The report noted that the war in Ukraine remained the most frequent topic for propaganda.
However, hate speech related to migration, LGBTQ+ communities, and the climate crisis also appeared on these platforms.
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