TikTok and Meta (formerly Facebook) have a week to provide information to the European Union regarding the possible spread of disinformation regarding the conflict between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas. Indeed, the Union is concerned about the possible spread of terrorist and violent content and hate speech. Since the beginning of the conflict, not only comments calling for violence, but also disinformation and false content, such as photo montages or videos placed in the wrong context, have started to spread in large numbers on social networks.
Earlier, both companies were given a twenty-four-hour period to clarify the situation to the Union, but the request at that time had no legal force and was therefore not enforceable. The current challenge is already based on the law, namely the Digital Services Act, which entered into force this August. Failure to comply with the guidelines could result in fines of up to six percent of the company’s global turnover, or even the suspension of the entire platform.
The European Union announced the sending of letters to the two companies on its website on Thursday, where it said it was asking them to provide “more detailed information on the measures they have taken in relation to the fulfillment of their obligations regarding risk assessments and mitigation measures to protect the integrity of elections and following the terrorist attacks by Hamas on the territory of Israel, especially regarding the dissemination and proliferation of illegal content and disinformation”.
Both companies have until October 25 to provide the EU with information on how they are responding to the crisis, and until November 8 how they are proceeding with regard to protecting the integrity of the elections. If the Union is not satisfied with the materials provided, it has the option to initiate a formal investigation. In addition, TikTok must explain to the EU how it complies with elements of the European Digital Services Act that relate to the protection of minors.
“Next week we will publish our first transparency report under the new law, giving more information about our work to keep our European community safe,” a TikTok spokesperson told the BBC.
Already last week, TikTok announced that it will launch a special control center that should coordinate the work of security experts and improve software that automatically detects violent content. It is also hiring more Arabic and Hebrew speaking workers.
“Our teams work around the clock to keep our platforms safe, take action against content that violates our policies or local laws, and coordinate with third-party fact-checkers in the region to limit the spread of misinformation. We will be happy to provide more details about this work beyond what we have already communicated and will respond to the European Commission,” a spokesperson for Meta, which houses social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Threads, told the BBC.
The Union also recently warned “X”
The new demands on social media companies follow those last week, when the EU also approached X, formerly known as Twitter, with the same concerns. At the time, European Commissioner Thierry Breton sent a letter to the CEOs of Meta, TikTok, X and Google, giving them 24 hours to respond.
The #DSA is here to protect both freedom of expression & our democracies — including in times of crisis.
We have sent @X a formal request for information, a first step in our investigation to determine compliance with the DSA.https://t.co/59ZX51aDVG
— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) October 12, 2023
In response to that letter, X said it had removed hundreds of Hamas-affiliated accounts from the platform. In a letter to the EU posted on the X platform, the company’s CEO Linda Yaccarino writes, “There is no place on X for terrorist organizations or violent extremist groups, and we remove such accounts in real time,” adding that the platform assembled a team shortly after the attack began. who evaluates the situation. So-called community notes also work on X, i.e. notes that should put information into context. The company’s steps are currently being evaluated by the EU.
In response to the rules associated with the Digital Services Act, the owner of X, Elon Musk, announced that he is considering a possible exit of the social network from Europe. Europe accounts for approximately nine percent of the total number of active X network users.