‘Illegal’ Speech? The EU Attacks Social Media Giant X For Not Enough Censorship

The European Commission has initiated an examination into the operations of social media entity X, formerly known as Twitter. The focus is on the potential distribution of “illegal content” and misinformation related to the recent hostilities between Hamas and Israel.

The Commission’s intent is to evaluate X’s alignment with the Digital Services Act (DSA), a legislative framework designed to oversee the dissemination of illicit content and false narratives on online platforms.

In a press statement, the Commission detailed its concerns, stating, “This request follows indications received by the commission services of the alleged spreading of illegal content and disinformation, in particular the spreading of terrorist and violent content and hate speech.”

The Commission has set a deadline for X: “It requires X to provide by Oct. 18 the inquired information, particularly concerning the activation and functioning of X’s crisis response protocol.” Furthermore, “Based on the assessment of X replies, the commission will assess the next steps. This could entail the formal opening of proceedings pursuant to Article 66 of the DSA.”

This move comes in the wake of a letter from European Union Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton to Elon Musk, the proprietor of X, dated Oct. 10. Breton’s letter highlighted concerns, stating there were indications that X is being used to spread disinformation in Europe. He further cautioned Musk, saying failure to respond within 24 hours could trigger a potential investigation and penalties.

In response, Musk stated: “Our policy is that everything is open source and transparent, an approach that I know the EU supports. Please list the violations you allude to on X so that the public can see them.”

Subsequently, on Oct. 11, X’s CEO, Linda Yaccarino, addressed the situation, stating in a letter, “There is no place on X for terrorist organizations or violent extremist groups, and we continue to remove such accounts in real-time.” She further added, “Shortly after the news broke out about the Hamas attack, X assembled a leadership group to assess the situation.”

In a subsequent public communication on X, Yaccarino elaborated, saying the company has “redistributed resources and refocused internal teams who are working around the clock to address this rapidly evolving situation.” She also highlighted the platform’s proactive stance against antisemitic narratives and manipulation of trending topics.

The ongoing conflict has led to significant casualties. The Israeli military’s response has been robust, with the situation in Gaza escalating. On Oct. 13, an announcement from the Israel Defense Forces urged Palestinians in Gaza City to evacuate, stating, “In the following days, the IDF will continue to operate significantly in Gaza City and make extensive efforts to avoid harming civilians.”