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EU criticizes X over levels of disinformation found on platform

EU criticizes X over levels of disinformation found on platform

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Although Musk’s platform has left the voluntary code of practice, the EU says it will still have to comply with its tough new Digital Services Act.

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European Commission Vice-president Vera Jourova in Brussels
Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

European Union regulators have reprimanded Elon Musk after X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, was found to contain a higher ratio of misinformation and disinformation in a new report. “X, formerly Twitter … is the platform with the largest ratio of mis/disinformation followed by Facebook,” the European commissioner for values and transparency, Věra Jourová, said in comments reported by The Guardian

The comments coincided with the publication of a new series of reports as part of the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation. These included a third-party analysis from TrustLab, which says that discoverability of posts containing misinformation and disinformation was highest on X, meaning that for a given search containing “disinformation keywords” a higher proportion of results contained misinformation and disinformation. TrustLab’s report, which covers disinformation across EU member states Poland Slovakia, and Spain, also says the proportion of disinformation actors was highest on X.

Chat’s from TrustLab’s report showing the levels of disinformation found across major platforms.
Chat’s from TrustLab’s report showing the levels of disinformation found across major platforms.
Image: TrustLab

In terms of engagement, TrustLab’s report says misinformation and disinfomation content was engaged with more on X, on average, versus non-mis/disinformation content, resulting in the highest relative engagement out of the platforms analyzed. But in absolute terms, engagement with misinformation and disinformation content on X was lower than TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook.

X, then known as Twitter, signed up to comply with the voluntary rulebook last year alongside the likes of Meta, Microsoft, and Google, but withdrew from the agreement in May 2023. As such, while it’s been included in TrustLab’s third-party report, X hasn’t self-reported data alongside other major tech firms. X was previously criticized by the EU prior to formally leaving the code of practice, which said that its initial report from earlier this year was “short of data, with no information on commitments to empower the fact-checking community.

“Mr Musk knows he is not off the hook by leaving the code of practice”

Although the code of practice is voluntary for now, it’s seen as a precursor to the EU’s new Digital Services Act, which came into force in August and which Twitter and other designated Very Large Online Platforms will have to fully comply with early next year. “The new Code of Practice will be backed up by the DSA — including for heavy dissuasive sanctions,” the EU’s commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton, said in a statement when the code was announced last year. “Very large platforms that repeatedly break the Code and do not carry out risk mitigation measures properly risk fines of up to 6% of their global turnover.”

“Mr Musk knows he is not off the hook by leaving the code of practice,” said Jourová, per The Guardian. “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.” 

Away from X, the self-reported data shines light on the scale of the tech giant’s efforts to fight disinformation across their platforms. Google, for example, says it rejected over 140,000 political ads in the EU “for failing the identity verification process,” while Microsoft said it restricted or blocked the creation of 6.7 million fake LinkedIn accounts in the EU in the first half of this year. TikTok says it removed over 140,000 videos for infringing its misinformation policy, while Meta applied fact checking labels to over 40 million pieces of content across Facebook and Instagram. 

The EU’s press release specifically calls out efforts to stop the spread of misinformation about Russia’s war in Ukraine. Google reports that it has removed 411 YouTube channels linked to Russia’s state-backed Internet Research Agency, while TikTok took down 211 videos after fact-checking them. “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,” warned the EU’s Jourová.