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Commission starts formal investigation of X and violation of new EU law

The European Commission has opened a formal investigation of if X (earlier called Twitter) breached the Digital Services Act (DSA) in areas linked to risk management, content moderation, dark patterns, advertising transparency and data access for researchers.  These are the first formal proceedings launched by the Commission to enforce the new EU framework for online platforms’ responsibility. The Commission has earlier said that the recently implemented EU digital acts means big tech companies can no longer say they are “too big to care”.

The Commission says that it has made a preliminary investigation and decided to open a formal infringement proceedings. The preliminary investigation was based on reports from X 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 proceedings will focus on the following areas:

  • The compliance with the DSA obligations related to countering the dissemination of illegal content in the EU, notably in relation to the risk assessment and mitigation measures adopted by X to counter the dissemination of illegal content in the EU, as well as the functioning of the notice and action mechanism for illegal content in the EU mandated by the DSA, including in light of X’s content moderation resources.
  • The effectiveness of measures taken to combat information manipulation on the platform, notably the effectiveness of X’s so-called ‘Community Notes’ system in the EU and the effectiveness of related policies mitigating risks to civic discourse and electoral processes.
  • The measures taken by X to increase the transparency of its platform. The investigation concerns 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.
  • A suspected deceptive design of the user interface, notably in relation to checkmarks linked to certain subscription products, the so-called Blue checks.
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X said it will cooperate with the investigation:

“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,” it added.

After the formal opening of proceedings, the Commission will continue to gather evidence, for example by sending additional requests for information, conducting interviews or inspections.

The opening of formal proceedings empowers the Commission to take further enforcement steps, such as interim measures, and non-compliance decisions. 

“The DSA does not set any legal deadline for bringing formal proceedings to an end. The duration of an in-depth investigation depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, the extent to which the company concerned cooperate with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence”, the Commission says.

EU’s Digital Services Act has formally been in force since last autumn but a step-by-step implementation means that it is from earlier this year that stricter rules for big tech are in place. Since August 25, the 19 biggest platforms have to comply with the DSA that includes removing illegal content.

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The DSA new and stricter rules are for the most dominating platforms. After an investigation based on user data, the EU has announced that they are 17 Very Large Online Platforms and 2 Very Large Online Search Engines that reach at least 45 million monthly active users. These are:

Very Large Online Platforms:

  • Alibaba AliExpress
  • Amazon Store
  • Apple AppStore
  • Facebook
  • Google Play
  • Google Maps
  • Google Shopping
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Snapchat
  • TikTok
  • Twitter
  • Wikipedia
  • YouTube
  • Zalando

Very Large Online Search Engines:

  • Bing
  • Google Search
Read Also:  EU says social media's efforts to stop disinformation not enough

Digital Services Act, a short summary

  • Aims to create a safer online space for users, stricter rules for platforms
  • The DSA establishes a “notice and action” mechanism, as well as safeguards, for the removal of illegal content.
  • Online platforms must be transparent about how algorithms work and platforms should be accountable for decisions they make.
  • Measures to counter illegal products, services and content online, including clearly defined procedures for removals
  • Mandatory risk assessments and more transparency over “recommender systems” to fight harmful content and disinformation
  • Online platforms should be prohibited from using deceiving or nudging techniques to influence users’ behaviour through “dark patterns”
  • Targeted advertising: the text provides for more transparent and informed choice for all recipients of services, including information on how their data will be monetised and to better protect minors from direct marketing, profiling and behaviourally targeted advertising for commercial purposes


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