The European Commission has sent a warning to TikTok to remind it of its obligation to protect young people from “violent and terrorist content” in the context of the war between Israel and Palestine. Brussels goes further with X – former Twitter – which has just opened an investigation for alleged non-compliance with its legislation. And Meta, owner of Instagram and Facebook, announces its first measures to eliminate disinformation spread by the terrorist group Hamas. It is the chain of events that has occurred in the last few hours and that reflects the battle that Europeans are fighting intensely to confront the incessant flow of hoaxes that are circulating these days on the networks.

At the end of August, the European Union took a huge leap in the fight against online fake news. The Digital Services Act (DSA) thus became the first legislation in the world that requires digital platforms to remove hate content as quickly as possible, make their algorithms more transparent and submit reports routine with the evaluation and implementation of its measures at Berlaymont, headquarters of the European Commission. “Moderating content does not translate into censorship. There will not be a Ministry of Truth in Europe. What there will be will be transparency,” said Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, in response to the criticism and concerns that arose around the limits. of freedom of expression.

The DSA saw the light in the context of the war in Ukraine and the consequent explosion of disinformation that began to spread like wildfire through social networks. One of the EU’s first moves after the Russian invasion of its neighbor, 600 days ago, was to ban the broadcast of the Russia Today and Sputnik channels, which Brussels classified as speakers of pro-Kremlin propaganda. But the law was born especially motivated by the proximity of the elections to the European Parliament, which are held between June 6 and 9. Brussels fears interference from external powers such as Russia, as would have occurred in the US elections that brought Donald Trump to power in the United States in 2016.

But it has been the unexpected war in the powder keg of the Middle East, which began last Saturday with an unprecedented attack by the terrorist group Hamas on Jewish territory, which represents the first test for the ambitious European law. Already in the early stages of the conflict, Europeans began to accuse an enormous dissemination of images of violence and illegal content spreading uncontrollably through the networks, especially in X. That is, violating the community acquis.

Thus began a direct and public exchange of accusations between the European commissioner and Musk, which has already been going on for a long time but has been redoubled in the current context. For now, Brussels has opened the first investigation into X within the framework of the DSA to evaluate whether it has complied with its obligations under European law. Community experts will now review whether The company has until October 18 to provide more data. Violating European law carries million-dollar fines that can reach up to 6% of the firms’ total income.

During this first week of war, images and videos of kidnappings, murders or unspeakable violence have multiplied exponentially through social networks. False content, decontextualized or taken from other conflicts around the globe, has also been a constant. Joe Biden himself, the American president, even stated that he had seen images of beheaded children. The White House had to rectify it shortly after. In this scenario of online disinformation, X has been especially protagonist, a network where anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are being circulated with great success.

The fact that they are spread by accounts with the blue tick confuses users. Previously, to obtain verification you had to prove your merits and professional profile. But with Musk’s model, you have to pay. One of the recent theories that brings together more than 10,000 reactions in rest of the world through an organized crime syndicate that threatens nuclear weapons. From Guatemala to Azerbaijan or Syria, the images that are wrongly attributed to the current context are countless, making it increasingly difficult to decide what is true and what is not.

The second “reminder” letter sent by Breton’s team regarding the provisions of the DSA has arrived directly in Mark Zuckerberg’s mailbox. The tone is, however, somewhat more conciliatory. In response, Meta has announced that she is taking the first steps to remove content that expresses support for Hamas. A reality that has crossed the screens. France, Germany and Hungary have banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations on their streets. The technology giant has reported, according to the Reuters agency, the elimination of 795,000 publications that showed or encouraged violence, as well as images of Hamas with hostages with the aim of “protecting their privacy and security.” The EU is especially concerned about the role that Facebook can play in the upcoming elections in Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium or the European elections themselves. And this is how it was sent to Zuckerberg.

The third letter was addressed to TikTok, a network especially popular among teenagers. In the letter, the Frenchman warns CEO Shou Zi Chew that the European Commission has indications that his platform is serving as a launcher to distribute illegal content and disinformation regarding the Israel-Palestine war. “Many users, especially minors, use their platform as a means to obtain information. Truthful sources must be clearly differentiated from terrorist propaganda,” the text reads.

The fourth and last letter, for now, is addressed to YouTube and its parent company, Alphabet, for the “broad reach” of its audiovisual content, whose audience is usually “children and adolescents.” “When you receive notification of illegal content within the EU, you must act quickly and diligently to remove such content from your website,” warns Breton. For now, Brussels opts for dialogue with Meta, TikTok and Alphabet, but comes into direct clash with Elon Musk’s X.