TikTok warned over disinformation following Hamas attack on Israel

Commission intensifies investigation of X, demanding answers for 'terrorist and violent content'

TikTok has been asked to detail steps it is taking to clamp down on disinformation that has inundated its platform since the Hamas attack on Israel. Reuters
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TikTok has become the latest social media platform in recent days to be warned over “illegal content and disinformation” after the deadly assault by Hamas on Israel last week.

In a letter to TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew on Thursday, EU Commissioner Thierry Breton gave the company 24 hours to detail how it will clamp down on disinformation.

Disinformation has flooded social media platforms since the Hamas assault, with fake footage and other falsehoods spread online.

“Following the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel, we have indications that TikTok is being used to disseminate illegal content and disinformation in the EU,” Mr Breton wrote.

He highlighted the new Digital Services Act (DSA), which holds companies such as TikTok accountable for content posted to their platforms.

“As foreseen in the DSA, you need to put in place appropriate and proportionate measures to guarantee a high level of privacy, safety and security,” he wrote.

Violations of the DSA can lead to fines of up to 6 per cent of the company's global turnover, according to the commission. It can also impose immediate action to stop such content and, as a last resort, ask a court for the platform's service to be temporarily suspended.

“Of course, all these steps that are foreseen under the DSA as possibilities would be taken for respect of due process and at this stage in time I’m not in position to comment on what might be done when,” said EU Commission spokesman Johannes Burke.

The letter is similar to that of one sent on Wednesday to X, formerly Twitter, which has become a hotbed of disinformation since the onset of the Israel-Gaza war.

The EU Commission ramped up its investigation into X late on Thursday, giving Elon Musk's media platform one week to answer for “terrorist and illegal” content that has appeared on it.

X has until October 18 to answer questions related to its crisis response protocol, the commission said in a press release. X has until October 31 to address the remaining questions.

The action comes after Linda Yaccarino, X chief executive, told the commission that the platform has taken measures to crack down on disinformation by removing or labelling “thousands of pieces of content”. Hundreds of accounts linked to Hamas, which the US lists as a terrorist group, have also been taken down.

“There is no place for violent & hateful entities on X” including terrorist groups, perpetrators of violent attacks and those linked to such activities, Ms Yaccarino wrote in a letter dated October 11.

The X chief executive was responding to a 24-hour notice that Mr Musk was given to answer for illegal content that was appearing on X amid the Israel-Gaza war.

Ms Yaccarino said X had received more than 80 taken-down requests from the EU but no notices from Europol relating to illegal content on the platform.

“We wish to reiterate that we welcome further engagement with you and your team, including a meeting, to address any specific questions and look forward to receiving further specifics to which we can respond,” she wrote.

Meta also received a 24-hour notice letter from the commission on Wednesday.

Updated: October 12, 2023, 6:48 PM