EU issues DSA warning to Elon Musk over X disinformation

11 Oct 2023

EU commissioner for the internal market Thierry Breton in 2023. Image: Government of Spain/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Musk has been issued 24 hours to explain how X is in compliance with EU rules and could face fines if its found to be non-compliant.

X is facing a potential investigation by the EU over recent claims of disinformation spreading through the platform.

Thierry Breton, EU commissioner for the internal market, publicly shared a letter he sent to X owner Elon Musk over claims that the site is being used to “disseminate illegal content and disinformation”.

The letter warns that X has “very precise obligations” to follow under the Digital Services Act (DSA), the EU’s regulation that includes strict rules on content moderation, advertising transparency and greater choice for users to control what they see.

“We have, from qualified sources, reports about potentially illegal content circulating on your service [X] despite flags from relevant authorities,” Breton said in the letter.

X came into the spotlight this week due to various claims that graphic and misleading content is circulating on the site relating to the conflict taking place between Israel and Hamas.

Breton said that, under DSA rules, X needs to be “timely, diligent and objective” in removing illegal content when warranted and that the site must have “proportionate and effective mitigation measures” in place to tackle disinformation.

The letter said Musk has 24 hours to “urgently ensure” the site’s systems are effective and to share what “crisis measures” have been taken.

“I remind you that following the opening of a potential investigation and a finding of non-compliance, penalties can be imposed,” Breton said.

Musk responded to the letter and said X’s policy is that “everything is open source and transparent”. He also asked Breton to list the violations “so that the public can see them”.

In a counter-response, Breton said Musk is “well aware of your users’ – and authorities’ – reports on fake content and glorification of violence”.

“Up to you to demonstrate that you walk the talk,” Breton said. “My team remains at your disposal to ensure DSA compliance, which the EU will continue to enforce rigorously.”

One hour after Breton shared the letter, the X community notes account issued a large post thanking contributors who are “helping to keep people on X informed”. Community notes is a feature that lets users add context to potentially misleading posts.

Last month, an EU report claimed Kremlin-backed accounts have grown in influence this year, due to the dismantling of certain safety standards on X.

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EU commissioner for the internal market Thierry Breton in 2023. Image: Government of Spain via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic