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EU to force X to shut down if Musk does not ban independent media from the platform
By Belle Carter // Dec 25, 2023

The European Union (EU) launched "formal infringement proceedings" into X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter owned by Big Tech mogul Elon Musk, accusing it of failing to counter illicit content and disinformation, a lack of transparency about advertising and "deceptive" design practices. The European Commission's executive branch also vowed to permanently shut it down if the platform doesn't immediately ban alternative media.

"The evidence we currently have is enough to formally open a proceeding against X," Margrethe Vestager, the 27-nation bloc's executive vice president overseeing digital policy, said in a statement. "The Commission will carefully investigate X's compliance with the [Digital Services Act] DSA, to ensure European citizens are safeguarded online."

The announcement of the probe comes weeks after the microblogging site was asked to provide assurances that it was complying with the terms of the European bloc's DSA,  a regulation to update the Electronic Commerce Directive 2000 regarding illegal content, transparent advertising, and disinformation. It was submitted along with the Digital Markets Act by the European Commission to the European Parliament and the Council in December 2020. Under the law, which came into effect in August, a company can be fined up to six percent of its annual global income or banned from operating in the EU if it is found to have breached the sweeping legislation.

Independent media outlet Infowar's Alex Jones called the public to defend Musk as the "unelected body" has embarked on its plan to silence Americans ahead of the 2024 election. "This amounts to a foreign coup!" Jones commented, appending the hashtag: #DefendElon on his post.

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Meanwhile, Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner responsible for the law's enforcement, wrote in a post on the social network: "Today we open formal infringement proceedings against X," adding that the move had been taken in response to a "suspected breach of obligations to counter illegal content and disinformation; suspected breach of transparency obligations" and "suspected deceptive design of user interface." (Related: Emergency breaking news! EU officially comes for Elon Musk.)

Musk replied to Breton's post questioning if the body was also taking action against other social media. "Because if you have those issues with this platform, and none are perfect, the others are much worse," the tech giant executive lamented. A lot of the billionaire's followers agreed. "This is political, personal, and intentional to try and thwart free speech on the platform," one user commented while another one said: "They will not attack other social media because X is the only social media that fights pedo pornography and free speech is a weapon to fight it."

X, which was subject to a multi-billion-dollar takeover by Musk last year, said it was focused on "creating a safe and inclusive environment" for its users, which it said it balances against "protecting freedom of expression." At the time of the takeover, Musk branded himself as a "free speech absolutist." Then on October 10, the EU warned the site in a formal letter that it had received 'indications" that it was "being used to disseminate illegal content and disinformation in the EU" related to the militant group Hamas' attack in Israel on October 7. X Chief Executive Linda Yaccarino wrote a letter to Breton saying that the tech firm was "working to address the operational needs of this fast-moving and evolving conflict." She added that X had removed hundreds of Hamas-affiliated accounts from the service.

EU's analytics: X has more "fake news" than other social media platforms

Back in September, an EU report indicated that X spreads more false information than other social networks. The bloc's analytics firm TrustLab said it studied activity on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn and X, which was still referred to as Twitter in the report in Poland, Slovakia and Spain, searched for "disinformation keywords" and then analyzed how many of the posts containing those keywords spread misinformation using fact-check websites. The topics that were covered included politics, health care and the Russia-Ukraine war.

The results found that engagement was higher on posts with false information on X and YouTube, while TikTok had the opposite effect. EU then used the report as a benchmark, while the firm plans to conduct more detailed studies in other countries.

European Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova called out X's performance in the study at that time and urged other social networks to do more to prevent the spread of misinformation. "Russian propaganda and disinformation is still very present on online platforms," Jourova claimed. "This is not business as usual. The Kremlin fights with bombs in Ukraine but with words everywhere else, including in the European Union."

The study was commissioned by Meta, YouTube, TikTok and LinkedIn as part of the European Commission's Code of Practice, something Musk pulled out of when he took over Twitter.

Head over to Censorship.news for more stories related to governments' actions to control social media content.

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