HomeTech Elon Musk doesn’t understand EU fears about misinformation about X, says official

Elon Musk doesn’t understand EU fears about misinformation about X, says official

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Elon Musk doesn't understand EU fears about misinformation about X, says official

Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of X, formerly known as Twitter, does not understand European concerns about hate and division that can result from the spread of disinformation, an EU high commissioner said.

Speaking just days before the European parliamentary elections, in which disinformation, particularly Russian-backed propaganda, has been a key issue, Věra Jourová criticized what she said was a clear deterioration in content moderation on X since Musk bought the platform in 2022.

“Elon Musk, from the beginning of his effort with Twitter, I think he lacks a certain understanding of why we in the EU are so careful or cautious when we see the first seeds of something that could grow, because of the history of the past. century where the first signs of anti-Semitism were not stopped,” he stated.

“Because we have these bloody lessons from our history, we are more cautious, perhaps, than the United States.”

Jourová, as vice-president for values ​​and transparency at the European Commission, deals with democracy, the rule of law and disinformation in the 27-member bloc. She also highlighted the need for Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, to step up its efforts to combat propaganda.

On the eve of the European elections, which will be held from Thursday to Sunday, Jourová stated that there have been waves of “attempts to influence the information space” and to polarize public opinion in countries such as Slovakia, where there was recently an assassination attempt of the prime minister. , Roberto Fico.

The commission was concerned about the “magnitude of disinformation” and the “magnitude of reach” of platforms like Facebook and X that reach billions around the world, he added.

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“Member states in the Baltic countries are generally concerned about the high intensity of Russian propaganda reaching Russian-speaking citizens,” he said.

To fulfill their responsibility to eliminate illegal and foreign interference, big tech companies needed to employ people who knew what they were talking about, said Jourová, who had just returned from a visit to Silicon Valley.

He revealed that the commission was studying whether it could incorporate the Telegram messaging application, popular in Eastern European countries, into its regulatory orbit. With 41 million monthly active users in the EU, it is below the 45 million user threshold that would classify it under EU law as a “very large online platform.”

“We have to check (these figures) because there are big complaints about Telegram, especially in the Baltic countries and in countries where there are a large number of Russian-speaking people,” Jourová said.

Sitting in her Brussels office, under a strong impression of Václav Havel, former Czech president, writer and Cold War dissident, and another of Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian-American journalist murdered in Moscow in 2006, she spoke of how “damaged” society had become through efforts to undermine freedom and legality of expression.

He said he had told X CEO Linda Yaccarino that the “community notes” system the platform had introduced to improve its moderation was not the answer the EU was looking for.

Jourová said that X argued that the notes, which allow users to question the content, had a “self-purifying” effect.

“But my answer was: we would like fact-checking to be done by people who understand the issues, who are not activists, who are not biased and who can recognize the difference between facts and opinions,” Jourová said.

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“You need people who understand the language, history and laws of member states where key decisions of supreme or constitutional courts have established what the limit of freedom of expression is. Words have meaning and that is why we would like them (X) to hire the professionals who can do this job,” he stated.

He said he agreed with Musk that freedom of expression was a priority. But, he added, he needed to understand that in Europe that freedom comes with a set of laws that prohibit hate speech and incitement to violence. Big tech companies, he added, must be alert to creating “waves of hate and racism” that could lead to a “chain of violence.”

Another issue that deeply worries the commissioner, who does not intend to return to Brussels once her current mandate expires, is the impact of social networks on children and young people.

There are “too many suicides, cases of bulimia, young people with mental illness, too much harassment, bullying,” he said, predicting that the mental health of children who have grown up on social media will be the “number one issue today.” the next five years.”

Serious research is needed to gather data on the formative effect that social media can have on young people’s values ​​and their understanding of societal principles and acceptable behavior, Jourová said.

“This world has been broken, damaged in some way. “My generation has messed up a lot of things,” he stated. “Our great hope is the younger generation and suddenly I see that a part of them is trapped by the system. It’s really scary. That’s why we need to discuss this at the highest level possible. “There must be an ongoing discussion in the triangle of the worlds of politics, research and technologies.”

Telegram said it was complying with EU sanctions on access to Russian media such as RT (formerly Russia Today) and Sputnik. It also said that it was “not an effective platform for spreading disinformation” and that “unlike other apps” it does not use “algorithms to promote sensationalist content.” It added that it was giving access to uncensored news to users in Russia.

X and Meta have been contacted for comment.

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