The European Union has opened infringement proceedings into the social media platform X, previously known as Twitter, over suspected failure to combat content disinformation and manipulation.
It is the first such probe under the Digital Services Act (DSA).
The bloc’s regulator Thierry Breton said Monday that the move is in response to suspected breaches of X’s transparency obligations and its duties to counter illegal content and disinformation. It is also in response to what the EU calls a “deceptive” design of user interface, relating to its so-called blue checks.
In response to a request for comment, X — run by Elon Musk — said via email: “Busy now, please check back later.”
The European Commission said it launched the proceedings under the DSA “on the basis of the preliminary investigation conducted so far, including on the basis of an analysis of the risk assessment report submitted by X in September, X’s Transparency report published on 3 November, and X’s replies to a formal request for information, which, among others, concerned the dissemination of illegal content in the context of Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel.”
The DSA, which only came into effect in November 2022, requires large online platforms such as X to mitigate the risk of disinformation and institute rigorous procedures to remove hate speech, while balancing this with freedom-of-expression concerns. Companies found guilty of breaches face fines of up to 6% of their global annual revenues.
The formal infringement proceedings will focus on X’s compliance with its duties to counter the dissemination of illegal content in the EU, the effectiveness of the social media platform’s steps to combat information manipulation and its measures to increase transparency.
The investigation will also address a suspected “deceptive design” of the X user interface, notably focusing on the platform’s so-called blue checks. X says the blue ticks denote verified accounts that have an active subscription to the X Premium service and meet certain eligibility requirements, such as showing a display name and profile photo, being in active use, and being secure and non-deceptive.
“Your account must have no signs of engaging in platform manipulation and spam” to qualify for the blue tick, X says.
After opening the proceedings, the European Commission said it would continue the process of evidence gathering. It notes that the Digital Services Act does not set a legal deadline for bringing formal proceedings to an end.
News of the probe was foreshadowed by Breton’s mid-October warning to social media platforms X, Meta and TikTok, urging them to remain vigilant over disinformation and violent posts addressing the Israel-Hamas conflict.
“I remind you that following the opening of a potential investigation and a finding of non-compliance, penalties can be imposed,” Breton wrote at the time.
In a separate recent incident, X was the subject of a complaint from high-profile privacy activist Max Schrems who alleged that the social media platform broke E.U. rules by unlawfully using people’s political views and religious beliefs to target them with ads.