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Tech News & Podcast | Africa

EU fires urgent warning at Elon Musk’s X over illegal content

The European Union has publicly warned Elon Musk-owned X (formerly Twitter) for neglecting to address illicit content that was circulated on the platform following the deadly attacks on Israel on Saturday by Hamas terrorists based in the Gaza Strip. This is a very quick test of the EU’s recently updated content moderation guidelines.

Regarding the dissemination of false material on X regarding the terrorist attacks and their aftermath, the European Commission has also expressed concern.

Disinformation itself is not prohibited in the EU, in contrast to content that promotes terrorism. However, X is required by the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) to reduce the risks associated with harmful lies and to respond promptly to notifications of illegal information. X is referred to as a “very large online platform.”

Graphic videos apparently showing terrorist attacks on civilians have been circulating on X since Saturday, along with other content, including some posts that purport to show footage from the attacks inside Israel or Israel’s subsequent retaliation on targets in the Gaza Strip but which fact-checkers have identified as false.

The Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians and tourists, which took place after militants inside Gaza managed to get past border fences and mount a series of surprise attacks, have been followed by Israel’s prime minister declaring “we are at war” and its military retaliating by firing scores of missiles into the Gaza Strip.

A number of videos posted to X since the attacks have been identified as entirely unrelated to the conflict — including footage that was filmed last month in Egypt and even a clip from a video game that had been posted to the platform with a (false) claim it showed Hamas missile attacks on Israel.

The DSA controls how social media sites and other services that host user-generated content are required to react to allegations of unlawful content, such as terrorism. This presents a challenge for Musk.

Larger platforms, like X, are also legally required to reduce the hazards associated with misinformation. Thus, the rapidly developing and violent events in Gaza and Israel provide a practical test of whether the EU’s recently relaunched legislation is large and powerful enough to take on the most infamous shitposter in the world. who has also owned the platform since last autumn.

Since assuming control of Twitter (as it existed at the time), Musk has singled out X for criticism about DSA enforcement due to a number of modifications he has implemented that make it more difficult for users to find.

This entails discontinuing the use of historical account verification and converting the Blue Check system into a pay-per-use application. In addition, he has destroyed many of the established content moderation guidelines and cut back on internal enforcement teams in favour of a decentralised, crowdsourced alternative known as Community Notes, which essentially assigns users the task of handling complex problems like misinformation in what appears to be yet another gambit to drive users crazy by adopting an extreme relativism philosophy that encourages culture warriors to never stop defending their own “truth” in the comments.

Additionally, he gave EU regulators a very explicit thumbs-down earlier this year by taking X out of the EU’s Code of Practise on Disinformation.

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