The EU wants to crack down on misinformation online — but here’s why it

The European Union has publicly called on X, Facebook owner Meta and TikTok to deal with false information on their sites. But industry researchers and experts say it could be an impossible task — even as hundreds of accounts linked to Hamas have been removed by X, the social network previously known as Twitter.

On Thursday, Linda Yaccarino, the CEO of X, outlined efforts by her company to combat illegal content on the platform. She was responding to public demands from a top European Union official for information on how X is complying with the EU’s tough new digital rules as conflict escalates between Hamas and Israel.

“X is proportionately and effectively assessing and addressing identified fake and manipulated content during this constantly evolving and shifting crisis,” Yaccarino said in a letter to Thierry Breton, an EU commissioner who often leads the 27-nation bloc’s actions on its Digital Services Act.

Yaccarino said her platform has acted to “remove or label tens of thousands of pieces of content.”

But one former employee who worked with the social network’s trust and safety team said she is not sure it can do much about this problem, after it deliberately decided to roll back its moderation teams.

Linda Yaccarino is shown on stage at the Davos conference.
Linda Yaccarino, CEO of X, formerly known as Twitter, says her platform is ‘proportionately and effectively’ assessing fake and manipulated content on the platform. (Jason Alden/Bloomberg)

“I think Twitter has significantly reduced capacity, by the company’s own choosing, to address these issues,” Theodora Skeadas said in an interview with CBC News, adding that she does not believe it has the ability to be responsive to harmful content on its platform.

Skeadas said that almost the entire trust and safety team, including herself, was laid off in the months after Elon Musk closed the deal in October 2022 to purchase Twitter.

“There aren’t as many people involved in the ecosystem whose day-to-day job was connected to tackling disinformation,” she said.

Not just Twitter, but Facebook and TikTok, too

European authorities announced on Thursday that they are demanding more information from X on how it handles illegal content and complaints about that content. X also needs to provide information by Oct. 18 on how its crisis responses work.

The European Union has also posted letters on social media addressed to Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, and to TikTok.

In a statement to CBC News, a Meta spokesperson said the company has staff who speak both Hebrew and Arabic and are monitoring the situation.

A company sign with a blue infinity symbol.
Facebook owner Meta has said it has staff members fluent in the Middle East’s major languages monitoring the situation in Israel and Gaza. (Tony Avelar/The Associated Press)

“Our teams are working around the clock to keep our platforms safe, take action on content that violates our policies or local law, and co-ordinate with third-party fact checkers in the region to limit the spread of misinformation,” the company said.

When asked repeatedly…

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