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How the European Union is Taking Action Against Elon Musk’s X

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In recent weeks, the European Union has taken a strong stance against hate speech and disinformation on social media platforms. One platform that has faced consequences is Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter. The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, has temporarily pulled its advertisements from X due to an “alarming increase” in such content. Moreover, the commission has the power to impose a fine of over $100 million on X if it is found to have breached new EU rules aimed at cleaning up digital media. This article explores the actions taken by the EU and the potential consequences for X.

The European Commission’s Concerns

The European Commission has expressed concerns about the rise of disinformation and hate speech on various social media platforms, including X. Johannes Bahrke, a spokesperson for the commission, stated that there has been a significant increase in such content in recent weeks. As a result, the commission advised EU institutions to refrain from advertising on platforms where this type of content is present. While Bahrke did not explicitly mention X, it has been confirmed that the platform has been affected by the temporary ban.

The commission’s concerns about X’s content moderation practices were heightened after a deadly attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Following the attack, the European Commission requested X, as well as other platforms like TikTok and Facebook parent company Meta, to provide details on their actions to combat the spread of illegal content and disinformation. The commission is currently reviewing X’s response and considering its next steps.

The Digital Services Act and Potential Fines

To regulate large tech companies more stringently and protect people’s rights online, the EU implemented the Digital Services Act (DSA) in August. Under this landmark legislation, social media companies operating in the EU are bound by certain obligations. Companies found to have violated the DSA can face fines of up to 6% of their annual global revenue. Considering that X is expected to generate $3 billion in revenue this year, the potential fine could amount to $180 million.

However, the imposition of a fine is unlikely until next year. Each of the EU’s 27 member states needs to appoint national “digital services coordinators” with the power to impose penalties by February 17. So far, only Italy and Hungary have done so. This delay provides X with some time to rectify its content moderation practices and potentially avoid the hefty fine.

Elon Musk’s Controversial Posts

Elon Musk, the owner of X, has been at the center of controversy due to his posts on the platform. One post in particular, where Musk endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory, drew significant backlash. The conspiracy theory falsely claims that Jewish communities promote hate against white people. It is worth noting that this conspiracy theory motivated the 2018 attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which was the deadliest attack against Jewish people in American history. Musk, however, denies accusations of being antisemitic and asserts that “nothing could be further from the truth.”

Despite Musk’s denial, several prominent media companies, including Disney and Paramount, have pulled their advertisements from X. Additionally, the White House has condemned Musk’s post, stating that it is “unacceptable to repeat the hideous lie behind the most fatal act of antisemitism in American history.” The European Commission, while not directly criticizing Musk, recently sounded the alarm on the sharp rise in antisemitism in Europe.

Response from Germany and the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency

Germany’s Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency has taken a strong stance against X, announcing that it will stop using the platform entirely. The agency cited an “enormous increase” in discriminatory and hateful speech as the reason for this decision. Ferda Ataman, Germany’s independent federal commissioner for anti-discrimination, directly called out X’s owner, Elon Musk, questioning whether it is acceptable for public institutions to support a platform that spreads antisemitic, racist, and populist content. Ataman emphasized that there cannot be any justification for continuing to use X given the spread of conspiracy theories, antisemitism, and hate speech on the platform.

Challenges of Content Moderation on X

The DSA places the responsibility of content moderation on platforms like X. However, this poses a unique challenge when it comes to moderating the owner’s posts. Sandra Wachter, a professor of technology and regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute, highlights the conflict of interest in X’s content moderation practices. According to the DSA, X’s content moderators are required to treat Elon Musk like any other user and take appropriate action if his posts violate EU rules. However, this expectation is undoubtedly difficult for X employees, as they are essentially tasked with policing their own boss.

See first source: CNN

FAQ

Q1: What has prompted the European Commission’s recent actions regarding social media platforms?

A1: The European Commission has raised concerns about the increase in hate speech and disinformation on various social media platforms, including X.

Q2: Why did the European Commission temporarily pull its advertisements from X?

A2: The commission temporarily pulled its advertisements from X due to what it described as an “alarming increase” in hate speech and disinformation on the platform.

Q3: What is the Digital Services Act (DSA), and how does it affect social media companies?

A3: The DSA is legislation implemented by the EU to regulate large tech companies more stringently and protect people’s rights online. It places certain obligations on social media companies operating in the EU.

Q4: What are the potential fines that social media companies like X could face under the DSA?

A4: Companies found to have violated the DSA can face fines of up to 6% of their annual global revenue. For X, with an expected revenue of $3 billion this year, the potential fine could be as high as $180 million.

Q5: What controversy has surrounded Elon Musk’s posts on X?

A5: Elon Musk, the owner of X, faced controversy for endorsing an antisemitic conspiracy theory in one of his posts. This conspiracy theory falsely claims that Jewish communities promote hate against white people.

Q6: How have prominent media companies and the White House responded to Musk’s controversial post?

A6: Several prominent media companies, including Disney and Paramount, pulled their advertisements from X in response to Musk’s controversial post. The White House also condemned the post, calling it “unacceptable.”

Q7: What action has Germany’s Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency taken regarding X?

A7: Germany’s Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency announced that it will stop using X entirely due to an “enormous increase” in discriminatory and hateful speech on the platform.

Q8: How has the agency’s commissioner, Ferda Ataman, criticized X and its owner?

A8: Ferda Ataman, Germany’s independent federal commissioner for anti-discrimination, questioned whether it is acceptable for public institutions to support a platform that spreads antisemitic, racist, and populist content.

Q9: What challenges arise in content moderation on X, particularly concerning Elon Musk’s posts?

A9: Content moderation on X presents unique challenges when it comes to moderating the owner’s posts. X’s content moderators are required to treat Elon Musk like any other user and take appropriate action if his posts violate EU rules, despite the conflict of interest.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Christian Lue; Unsplash – Thank you!

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