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Elon Musk Doesn’t Grasp EU’s Worries About X Disinformation, Says Official

ByHuey Yee Ong

Jun 7, 2024
Elon Musk Doesn't Grasp EU's Worries About X Disinformation, Says Official

Elon Musk Doesn’t Grasp EU’s Worries About X Disinformation, Says Official

EU Commissioner Vera Jourová has voiced significant concerns about Elon Musk’s grasp of European issues surrounding disinformation on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. Jurová’s comments come just days before the European parliamentary elections, a period marked by heightened sensitivity to disinformation, particularly that influenced by Russian-backed propaganda.

Elon Musk, who acquired X in 2022, has been criticized by Jurová for a perceived lack of understanding of the European Union’s historical experiences with hate speech and its potential to incite division and violence. Reflecting on Europe’s troubled past, including the early signs of antisemitism that went unchecked last century, Jurová emphasized the necessity of vigilance against similar beginnings of divisive rhetoric today.

How Does X Impact European Politics Today?

Jurová, who serves as the European Commission’s Vice-President of Values and Transparency, oversees issues related to democracy, the rule of law, and disinformation across the 27-member bloc. She expressed her concerns about the state of content moderation under Musk’s leadership of X, suggesting a deterioration that could undermine efforts to combat propaganda and misinformation.

In light of the upcoming elections, which span from Thursday to Sunday, the commissioner highlighted the recent attempts to influence public opinion in countries like Slovakia, which recently witnessed an attempted assassination of Prime Minister Robert Fico. Jurová pointed to these incidents as examples of the kind of polarization that unchecked disinformation can foster.

The EU is particularly alarmed by the magnitude of disinformation and its reach on platforms like Facebook and X, which collectively influence billions of users worldwide. This influence is a significant concern for member states in the Baltic region, who report substantial Russian propaganda reaching their Russian-speaking populations.

To counteract these threats, Jurová emphasized the necessity for tech companies to employ individuals who are not only knowledgeable about the legal and historical contexts of free speech within Europe but also capable of distinguishing between harmful content and free expression. This approach, she argued, is crucial for platforms to responsibly manage the content they host.

Further extending her critique to other platforms, Jurová discussed her recent visit to Silicon Valley, where she explored the possibility of bringing Telegram, a messaging app popular in Eastern Europe, under tighter EU regulatory control. Despite its 41 million active monthly users in the EU, Telegram falls just short of the 45 million-user threshold that defines a “very large online platform” under EU law, but its role in disseminating disinformation remains a significant concern, particularly in the Baltic states.

The Societal Impact of Social Media

Throughout her discourse, Jurová also touched on the broader societal impacts of social media, such as the increase in mental health issues among the youth, including suicides and bullying. She stressed the need for serious research into how social media platforms affect young people’s values and behaviors, anticipating that this would become a major topic of discussion in the near future.

“This world has been broken, damaged somehow. My generation has spoiled a lot of things,” she said. “Our big hope is the younger generation, and suddenly I see that part of it is being entrapped by the system. It’s really scary. That’s why we need to discuss this at the highest possible level. There must be a discussion ongoing in the triangle of the worlds of politics, research and technologies.”

Jurová’s office, decorated with images of Václav Havel and Anna Politkovskaya, serves as a reminder of the enduring fight for free and legal speech. She concluded her remarks by underscoring the necessity for tech platforms to engage with professionals who can effectively navigate the complex landscape of free speech, historical context, and legal standards to prevent the spread of hate and disinformation.

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Featured Image courtesy of  JADE GAO/AFP via Getty Images

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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