X defends itself over EU accusations of playing host to Israel-Hamas disinformation

X CEO Linda Yaccarino says the social media platform formerly known as Twitter has identified and removed “hundreds” of Hamas-affiliated accounts, and has “taken action to remove or label tens of thousands of pieces of content” in the wake of terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel. Yaccarino’s letter comes in response to concerns raised by EU commissioner Thierry Breton that X is being used to “disseminate illegal content and disinformation,” in possible violation of the EU’s tough new Digital Services Act (DSA).

The back-and-forth between X and the European Union comes as the EU implements the DSA, which imposes obligations on large online platforms to remove illegal content and mitigate risks to public security more generally. In addition to X, Breton has also written to Meta to remind it of its obligations under the DSA.

There have been widespread reports of misinformation and disinformation spreading on X surrounding the Israel-Hamas war. The Guardian has collated numerous examples of such content, some with millions of views, that includes videos and images being shared out of context. Separately, researchers claim to have discovered a propaganda network of 67 accounts posting false and inflammatory content about the war.

X is under particularly intense scrutiny because of the changes that have taken place at the company under Elon Musk’s ownership, which has seen deep cuts to its moderation teams, previously-banned accounts reinstated, its verification system turned upside down, the platform’s Trust and Safety Council dissolved, and two heads of trust and safety leave the company. Musk even recommended, in a since-deleted tweet, following two accounts who have spread misinformation in the past for real-time updates on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Yaccarino said that X assembled a “leadership group” shortly after news of the Hamas attack broke to assess the situation, and outlined the platform’s moderation policies against violent speech and violent and hateful entities. The CEO said the platform had responded to over 80 take down requests received in the EU “within required timelines” but noted that it had not received any notices from Europol about illegal content on the service. 

Yaccarino’s letter also emphasizes how X has been using Community Notes in an attempt to combat misinformation on its platform, noting that over 700 unique notes are being shown on the platform relating to the attacks. But a report from NBC News has shed light on the strain the volunteer-powered system is under, with some community notes taking hours or even days to be approved, and other posts failing to be labeled at all. 

While the letter from X’s CEO struck a diplomatic tone, Musk himself has been more forthright in his responses to Breton, pushing for the commissioner to list specific violations on the platform publicly. “We take our actions in the open,” Musk wrote. “No back room deals.”

We now wait for the EU’s response. Thierry Breton had previously warned X that non-compliance with the DSA could result in an investigation and possible fines.

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