The disinformation on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, has gone into overdrive amid the war between Israel and Hamas over the past week. And the information warfare happening on the platform has not gone unnoticed by the EU.
Earlier this week, EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton published an open letter to Elon Musk through Breton’s own X account about how the company may be breaking the law. The letter warned Musk that X’s inaction on illegal content and disinformation could be in violation of the EU’s new Digital Services Act (DSA).
However, Musk’s handpicked CEO, Linda Yaccarino, seems to be taking the issue more seriously. Yaccarino sent the EU a formal response, outlining what X has done in the wake of all the Israel-Hamas related disinformation on the platform.
Yaccarino’s letter in full was posted by X’s official Global Government Affairs account.
While Yaccarino’s letter easily provides much more about the company’s response to the disinformation than Musk’s, it’s still extremely short on any real details.
According to Yaccarino, “shortly after the news broke about the Hamas attack, X assembled a leadership group to assess the situation.” However, no real time frame was provided. In addition, it’s unclear what came out of this response. Yaccarino proceeded to run down a list of X’s policies regarding sensitive media and manipulated content, as well as hateful groups, speech, and attacks. But these are already long-established rules on X.
Linda Yaccarino at Vox Media’s 2023 Code Conference
Yaccarino provided a vague figure of flagged posts that were purged from the platform, but did not provide specific numbers. “Tens of thousands of pieces of content” have been removed. The company has also responded to “more than 80 take down requests” it received in the EU.
However, after perusing Yaccarino’s letter, it’s clear that the bulk of X’s moderating comes from its users in the form of the Community Notes feature. Yaccarino stated that Community Notes, the embedded box on posts where users rate additional context to content, has been “visible on thousands of posts, generating millions of impressions.”
Later in the post, Yaccarino added some specifics about Community Notes, She said “more than 700 unique notes related to the attacks and unfolding events” are now on X. There are an “additional 5000+” posts containing Community Notes as part of the “notes on media” feature. This displays Community Notes on content similar to images and videos, which have already been noted.
However, regular users of X have long criticized how long it takes for Community Notes to display on a post. This gives disinformation time to spread throughout the platform via retweets and shares without the additional context that corrects the wrong information. Yaccarino said X has worked to speed up the process in which a Community Note displays on a post. The X CEO added that Notes usually appear at a median time of five hours after a post’s creation, which is still a rather long time for a post to go viral without a correction.
X isn’t the only social media platform that received a warning from the EU. Breton also sent a letter to the video platform TikTok as well. However, unlike TikTok, X is the only one of these major platforms to drop out of the EU’s Disinformation Code, a voluntary agreement to tackle disinformation. While the new DSA formalized much of that code into law, Musk removing X from that group signaled to the EU just how much the company prioritizes its role in moderating content and falsehoods on its platform.
As of now, the EU has yet to respond as to whether its satisfied with X’s claims or if it will further its investigation into the company where penalties could be imposed.