In the midst of the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, pointed warnings are been sent out to some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent social media titans. Quite recently, a letter was sent to X owner Elon Musk regarding the rapid spread of disinformation on the erstwhile Twitter. Now, the same has been sent to Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of social media company Meta.
In the new letter, European Commissioner Thierry Breton warned Zuckerberg and Meta to address the steep increase of disinformation on the company’s family of platforms (which includes the likes of Facebook and Instagram), and the removal of the same, regarding the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. Meta now has a total of 24 hours to take action and be compliant with EU law.
This development is unsurprising, given that the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict has not only brought violence to the forefront but has also highlighted the increasing proliferation of disinformation on social media platforms. Misleading narratives, manipulated images, and erroneous reports have been widely shared, creating confusion and potentially fanning the flames of conflict. Already, over 1200 Israelis have lost their lives in this conflict, and Israel’s retaliatory siege of Gaza and heavy bombardment of the Palestinian territory claimed more than 1,000 lives so far. It is in response to this concerning trend that Breton issued the stern call for social media giants to address disinformation on their platforms.
At the heart of this issue is the European Union Digital Services Act (DSA), a comprehensive regulatory framework enacted to govern the digital landscape within the EU. One of the key obligations imposed by the DSA is that platforms like Meta, which includes Facebook and Instagram, are responsible for monitoring and removing illegal content. This content encompasses a wide range, from terrorist-related material to illegal hate speech. The DSA goes a step further by requiring these platforms to outline their content moderation protocols. Failure to adhere to these regulations can result in severe penalties. Companies could face fines amounting to as much as 6% of their global annual revenue.
“In light of a number of serious developments, let me recall the precise obligations regarding content moderation under the EU Digital Services Act,” Breton wrote in his letter. “Firstly, following the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel we are seeing a surge of illegal content and disinformation being disseminated in the E.U. via certain platforms,” the letter added. “I would ask you to be very vigilant to ensure strict compliance with the DSA rules on terms of service, on the requirement of timely, diligent and objective action, following notices of illegal content in the E.U.”
The #DSA is here to protect free speech against arbitrary decisions, and at the same time protect our citizens & democracies.
— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) October 11, 2023
Breton’s message is clear: in light of the disinformation stemming from the Israel-Hamas conflict, there is an urgent need for strict compliance with the DSA rules. This encompasses the terms of service and the requirement of timely, diligent, and objective action following notices of illegal content within the EU. Moreover, Breton emphasizes the need for proportionate and effective measures to mitigate the spread of such content. Apart from this, Breton has called for an update from Mark Zuckerberg regarding Meta’s efforts to combat fake news and deepfakes on its platforms. The Commissioner underlines the importance of mitigating deepfakes, particularly in the lead-up to upcoming elections in multiple European countries, including Poland, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Belgium, Croatia, Romania, Austria, and the European Parliament Elections.