The European Commission announced a wide-ranging formal investigation Monday into whether Elon Musk’s X violated the EU’s Digital Services Act, covering areas “linked to risk management, content moderation, dark patterns, advertising transparency and data access for researchers.”
In addition, the commission said, the probe will look into X’s “suspected deceptive design of the user interface, notably in relation to checkmarks linked to certain subscription products, the so-called blue checks.” The X Premium service, which costs $8/month and up, allows any subscriber to receive a verified check-mark badge, something Twitter previously had reserved to indicate the authenticity of high-profile accounts.
The European Commission said it decided to launch the formal investigation into X (formerly known as Twitter) under the DSA based on an analysis of the risk assessment report submitted by the company in September 2023, as well as its transparency report published on Nov. 3 and X’s replies to a formal request for information, which among other things concerned “the dissemination of illegal content in the context of Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel.”
“Today’s opening of formal proceedings against X makes it clear that, with the DSA, the time of big online platforms behaving like they are ‘too big to care’ has come to an end,” Thierry Breton, the EU’s commissioner for internal market, said in a statement. “We will now start an in-depth investigation of X’s compliance with the DSA obligations concerning countering the dissemination and amplification of illegal content and disinformation in the EU, transparency of the platforms and design of the user interface.”
In a post replying to Breton on X, Musk wrote, “Are you taking action against other social media? Because if you have those issues with this platform, and none are perfect, the others are much worse.”
Meanwhile, in a post on X, the company’s safety team wrote, “X remains committed to complying with the Digital Services Act and is cooperating with the regulatory process. It is important that this process remains free of political influence and follows the law. X is focused on creating a safe and inclusive environment for all users on our platform, while protecting freedom of expression, and we will continue to work tirelessly towards this goal.”
On Oct. 10, three days after Hamas’ deadly attacks on Israeli civilians, Breton issued a warning to Musk over “illegal content and disinformation” related to the Israel-Hamas war on X in possible violations of the DSA’s content moderation requirements. X CEO Linda Yaccarino issued a response in which she said the company has “taken action to remove or label tens of thousands of pieces of content” that could include false information about the attacks in Israel.
The European Commission noted that “The opening of formal infringement proceedings does not prejudge its outcome.”
The EU’s Digital Services Act, which went into effect Aug. 25, 2023, gives regulators new powers to force “very large online platforms” to remove hate speech and misinformation and to block illegal and harmful activities. The EU has designated X a “very large online platform” under the Digital Services Act, following the company’s declaration of having 112 million monthly active users in the EU as reported in February 2023.
The commission’s investigation into X related to the DSA will focus on areas including the platform’s compliance with the law related to “countering the dissemination of illegal content in the EU… in light of X’s content moderation resources.” It also will look into the effectiveness of measures X has taken to combat information manipulation on the platform, including X’s Community Notes crowdsourced fact-checking system in the EU.
Furthermore, the EU is looking into measures taken by X to increase the transparency of its platform, with the commission citing “suspected shortcomings in giving researchers access to X’s publicly accessible data as mandated by Article 40 of the DSA, as well as shortcomings in X’s ads repository.”