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Gaza war: Meta, TikTok faces ‘Disinformation Test’ as EU acts tough

Talking about Instagram, Meta found certain hashtags being consistently used on posts in violation of the tech venture's policies

Social media sites like Meta and TikTok are now facing the European Commission heat as the platforms have been asked to furnish information regarding the steps taken to prevent the spread of violent and hateful content on their portals.

Researchers have noted the spread of misinformation in the wake of Hamas’ attack on Israel more than a week ago, and the executive body of the European Union said that it had sent a request for the information to the two companies.

If the Commission is unsatisfied with the companies’ responses, it may launch investigations into them.

Major online platforms must do more to remove harmful and illegal content under new regulations for online content known as the Digital Services Act (DSA), which recently went into effect, or face fines of up to 6% of their global turnover.

“Meta must provide the requested information to the Commission by 25 October 2023 for questions related to the crisis response and by 8 November 2023 on the protection of the integrity of elections,” the Commission said, as reported by Reuters.

“TikTok must provide the requested information to the Commission by 25 October 2023 for questions related to the crisis response and by 8 November 2023 on the protection of the integrity of elections and minors online,” it added.

Meanwhile, according to a recent study, verified users with Blue badges are responsible for the vast majority of false information about the Israel-Hamas conflict on X (formerly Twitter).

A for-profit organization based in the United States, NewsGuard, examined 250 posts that received the most engagement during the first week of the conflict (October 7–14).

These posts included likes, reposts, replies, and bookmarks, and they all supported one of ten major false or unsupported narratives about the war.

The findings showed that 186 of the 250 posts, or 74% of the total, were made by accounts that X had verified.

Meanwhile, a Meta spokesperson informed CNBC about the Mark Zuckerburg-led venture responding to the letter from the European Commission about illegal content on the platform amid the conflict.

Meta has now created a special operations centre with experts fluent in Hebrew and Arabic, apart from removing/marking over 795,000 posts that violated policies against violent and graphic content, hate speech, harassment or coordinating harm, among others.

Meta informed, through a blog post, about “removing seven times as many pieces of content on a daily basis for violating its Dangerous Organizations and Individuals Policy in Hebrew and Arabic alone,” compared to the two months prior.

Under its dangerous organizations and individuals policy, Meta will remove “praise and substantive support” of the group, “while continuing to allow social and political discourse.”

Meta has temporarily lowered the threshold to trigger its technology that prevents “potentially violating and borderline content” from being amplified across its services, apart from “temporarily expanding” its violence and incitement policy. The tech platform will also remove posts that identify hostages, even when done to raise awareness.

Talking about Instagram, Meta found certain hashtags being consistently used on posts in violation of the tech venture’s policies. People who have previously violated its policies will have restrictions on the use of Facebook and Instagram Live.

TikTok has now launched a command centre to coordinate the work of its “safety professionals” around the world and improve the software it uses to automatically detect and remove graphic and violent content.

However, on October 21, news emerged about Meta and Google pulling out of the ‘Web Summit’, one of the tech sector’s biggest annual events, after the organizer criticized Israel’s actions.

Irish entrepreneur Paddy Cosgrave, co-founder of the Web Summit, expressed his shock about the “Israeli rhetoric and actions of Western leaders and governments,” following which, apart from Meta and Google boycotting the event, Intel, Siemens, US comedian Amy Poehler and X-files actor Gillian Anderson too followed the similar suit.

The Web Summit, which was due to host some 2,300 start-ups and over 70,000 people on November 13-16 in Portugal’s Lisbon, is now staring at uncertainty, due to the above-mentioned hi-profile ‘boycotts’.

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