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E.U. Probes Meta Over Election Misinformation and Content Moderation

Wesam Abo Marq Wesam Abo Marq
2nd May 2024
E.U. Probes Meta Over Election Misinformation and Content Moderation
The European Commission initiated formal proceedings to investigate Meta (Getty)

The European Union has initiated an investigation into Meta, the social media giant behind Facebook and Instagram, regarding allegations of election misinformation ahead of the upcoming E.U. June election. Brussels is reportedly taking action against Meta later this week, citing concerns over its handling of deceptive advertising, political content, and insufficient measures to combat Russian disinformation.

E.U. Opened Formal Proceedings to Assess Meta

On April 30, the European Commission initiated formal proceedings to investigate whether Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, violated the Digital Services Act (DSA).

“We suspect that Meta’s moderation is insufficient, that it lacks transparency of advertisements and content moderation procedures,” EU digital chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. “So today, we have opened proceedings against Meta to assess their compliance with the Digital Services Act,” she said.

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A screenshot of the European Commission’s announcement.

The regulatory action comes amid increasing concerns about Russia, China, and Iran potentially being sources of disinformation in the lead-up to the E.U. election.

There are concerns over Meta's moderation system, which may not be sufficiently strong to combat the spread of fake news and attempts to suppress voting. The Commission is particularly alarmed about how Meta's platforms are handling Russia's attempts to influence upcoming European elections, although it is anticipated that the proceedings will not directly implicate the Kremlin.

The Commission is reportedly concerned by Meta's plan to stop CrowdTangle, a tool used by researchers, journalists, and others in the E.U. to track the spread of fake news and efforts to suppress voting in real-time. 

New E.U. laws authorize tech companies like Facebook to regulate their content to ensure compliance with the law, mainly regarding election interference.

If the action against Meta is confirmed, it will follow the stress tests conducted by the commission on major social media platforms to assess their readiness against Russian disinformation. These tests involved simulated scenarios inspired by previous attempts to influence elections and manipulate information online, including the use of deepfakes and tactics to suppress real opinions through harassment and threats. 

According to the commission, the goal was to evaluate platforms' readiness to combat manipulation that could occur in the lead-up to elections, testing their resilience against manipulation tactics expected to escalate over the next six weeks.

Meta to Defend Its Risk Mitigation Processes

A spokesperson for Meta stated, “We have a well-established process for identifying and mitigating risks on our platforms. We look forward to continuing our cooperation with the European Commission and providing them with further details of this work.”

Meta has announced plans to replace CrowdTangle with a new tool called Content Library, although this technology is still in development.

The social media giant has a deadline of five working days to notify the E.U. about any remedial actions it has undertaken to address the concerns raised.

Against the backdrop of rising disinformation, the European parliamentary elections are scheduled for June 6-9. The parliament has released guidance for voters, while politicians are urging voters to stay vigilant against disinformation, drawing from recent national election experiences.

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A screenshot of the BBC’s article.

In June, citizens across 27 European countries will cast their votes in elections that hold significant importance for the European Union and its broader impact. With approximately 400 million eligible voters spanning from Finland to Cyprus, and Ireland to Bulgaria, the outcome will determine the composition of the next European Parliament, which serves as a direct link between Europeans and E.U. institutions.

This election carries weight due to its potential to shape the E.U.'s trajectory over the next five years, influencing policies on climate change, migration, and the balance between integration and nationalism.

Furthermore, the election results will impact the selection of the next president of the European Commission.

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