The European Union (EU) has announced on Thursday that it has initiated investigations into Meta, the owner of Facebook, and TikTok. The purpose of these probes is to gain more information about the steps taken by these platforms to prevent the dissemination of “illegal content and disinformation” after the Hamas attack on Israel.
Under the EU’s new law on digital content, the European Commission has formally requested Meta and TikTok to provide further details regarding their measures. This marks the first procedure launched under this legislation. Last week, the EU also initiated a similar investigation into Elon Musk’s social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
The commission has specifically asked Meta to address the issue of “dissemination and amplification of illegal content and disinformation” related to the Hamas-Israel conflict. In a separate statement, the EU expressed the need to understand TikTok’s efforts in combating “the spreading of terrorist and violent content and hate speech.”
Moreover, the EU’s executive arm emphasized the necessity for Meta to provide information regarding its “mitigation measures to protect the integrity of elections.”
Both Meta and TikTok have been given until October 25 to respond, with a deadline of November 8 for less urgent aspects of the information request. Additionally, the commission has also requested TikTok to furnish more details on its compliance with regulations concerning the protection of minors online.
The European Union has taken extensive measures to challenge the dominance of big tech companies through landmark legislation such as the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act. These laws impose stringent restrictions on the operations of internet giants.
The EU’s battle against disinformation has intensified following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year and its attempts to influence European public opinion. The recent Hamas attack on Israel and the subsequent flood of violent images on social media platforms have further underscored the urgency of addressing this issue.
The DSA, which came into effect in August, applies to “very large” platforms like Meta and TikTok, with more than 45 million monthly users in Europe. It prohibits the dissemination of illegal online content, with potential fines amounting to as much as six percent of a company’s global turnover.
Thierry Breton, the EU’s top tech enforcer and internal market commissioner, has sent warning letters to the CEOs of tech companies, including Mark Zuckerberg of Meta, Shou Zi Chew of TikTok, and Sundar Pichai of Alphabet, the owner of YouTube.
Breton has urged these executives to take decisive action against illegal content in the aftermath of the Hamas attack. Meta has already announced its commitment to combating illegal and problematic content related to the Hamas-Israel conflict.
Expressing his concerns about the impact of disinformation, Breton stated, “The widespread dissemination of illegal content and disinformation… poses a clear risk of stigmatizing certain communities, destabilizing our democratic structures, and exposing our children to violent content.”
Fact-checkers from AFP have discovered several posts on Facebook, TikTok, and X (formerly Twitter) promoting a fabricated White House document purporting to allocate $8 billion in military assistance to Israel. Additionally, various platforms have seen users misrepresenting material from other conflicts or video games as footage from Israel or Gaza.
Since the EU’s tougher stance on digital giants, some companies, including Meta, are considering the introduction of paid versions of their services within the European Union.