EU Orders Meta To Crack Down On Israel-Hamas Disinformation

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The EU has warned Mark Zuckerberg over the spread of “disinformation” on Meta’s social media platforms after Hamas’ attack on Israel. The Union told Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, it “has 24 hours” to respond and comply with European law. Various social media firms have seen a surge in news about the conflict, including doctored images and mislabeled videos. On Tuesday the EU warned X, about such content.

The bloc’s industry chief, Thierry Breton, told Meta it must prove it has taken “timely, diligent and objective action.” In a letter, he said the firm had 24 hours to tell him about the “proportionate and effective” measures it had taken to counter the spread of disinformation on its platforms.

A Meta spokesperson told news men: “After the terrorist attacks by Hamas on Israel on Saturday, we quickly established a special operations centre staffed with experts, including fluent Hebrew and Arabic speakers, to closely monitor and respond to this rapidly evolving situation. Our teams are working around the clock to keep our platforms safe, take action on content that violates our policies or local law, and coordinate with third-party fact checkers in the region to limit the spread of misinformation. We’ll continue this work as this conflict unfolds.”

The European Commission meanwhile reminded all social media companies that they are legally required to prevent the spread of harmful content related to Palestinian militant group Hamas, which is a proscribed terrorist group in the EU.

“Content circulating online that can be associated to Hamas qualifies as terrorist content, is illegal, and needs to be removed under both the Digital Services Act and Terrorist Content Online Regulation,” a Commission spokesperson said.

On Tuesday, Mr Breton wrote in a letter to Mr Musk that “violent and terrorist content” had not been taken down from X, despite warnings. Mr Musk said his company had taken action, an example is by removing newly-created Hamas-affiliated accounts. He asked the EU to list the alleged violations. Mr Musk said: “Our policy is that everything is open and transparent; an approach that I know the EU supports. Please list the violations you allude to on X, so that the public can see them.”

Mr Breton did not give details on the disinformation he was referring to in his letter to Mr Musk. However, he said that instances of “fake and manipulated images and facts” were widely reported on the social media platform. “I therefore invite you to urgently ensure that your systems are effective, and report on the crisis measures taken to my team,” he wrote in his letter, which he shared on social media.

The interventions came days after the Hamas launched an attack on Israel: killing thousands of residents and solders, and taking dozens of hostages. In response, Israeli forces have launched waves of missile strikes on Gaza which have killed more than 900 people.

The EU Digital Services Act (DSA) is designed to protect users of big tech platforms. It became law last November but firms were given time to make sure their systems complied.

On 25 April, the commission declared that very large online platforms – those with over 45 million EU users – would be subject to the toughest rules; X was on the list. The law came into effect four months later in August.

Under the tougher rules, larger firms have to assess posts potential risks they may cause, report that assessment and put in place measures to deal with the problem. Failure to comply with the DSA can result in EU fines of as much as 6% of a company’s global turnover, or potentially suspension of the service.

Although the Union claims the Act is in the people’s interest, it is being viewed as a tool for indirect control of information by analysts. The premise is that these platforms are just channels; they just provide services that help people reach larger audience with their content. Hence, they do not have physical presence all around the world. Asking them to assess potential risks of every post is rather setting them up for trouble.

Ibukun Akere, a social media analyst said: “This DSA is becoming the EU’s cash cow. You publish an Act that puts the organisations involved in a tight corner. These are just platforms, they are not news agencies. They only provide platforms for news agencies. Hence, you cannot expect them to be verifying every content posted on their platforms. Doing so is making them spend more money. Then you are giving them a penalty of 6% of their annual turnover. Seems like the EU just wants to create a means of revenue for itself with the move.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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