EU Issues Urgent Warning to TikTok Over Disinformation Following Recent Hamas Attack

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The European Union’s top tech regulator, Commissioner Thierry Breton, issued a stern warning to popular social media platform TikTok regarding the proliferation of “illegal content and disinformation” on its platform. This caution comes in the wake of the recent violent attack by Hamas in Israel.

Commissioner Breton emphasized the urgency of the situation, demanding that TikTok, a Chinese-owned platform, respond within 24 hours with a comprehensive plan outlining how it intends to tackle online disinformation. Similar warnings and demands were also made to X (formerly Twitter) and Meta (Facebook’s parent company) earlier in the week.

In a letter addressed to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, Breton expressed deep concern, particularly highlighting the alarming presence of violent content, including videos depicting hostage-taking and other graphic scenes. He stressed that as TikTok is widely used by children and teenagers, the platform carries a specific obligation to shield them from such harmful content by implementing appropriate safeguards.

Crucially, Breton reminded TikTok and other major online platforms that they are now bound by the European Union’s new Digital Services Act (DSA). This legislation, enacted two months ago, compels these platforms to take decisive action against content that violates EU law or the laws of individual EU member countries.

Breaches of the DSA can result in mandatory corrective measures to counter the dissemination of illicit content, hefty fines amounting to six percent of a company’s global turnover, or even the drastic step of banning the platform from operating within Europe.

The urgency of Breton’s request was underscored by a stipulation for TikTok to respond “within the next 24 hours,” mirroring the prompt action expected from X and Meta, as conveyed in Breton’s earlier letters to their respective CEOs, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.

The full content of Commissioner Breton’s letter to TikTok’s CEO was made public through his official account on X and a newly established account on Bluesky, a rival platform to X.

In the aftermath of the recent Hamas attack in Israel, online verification, investigation, and debunking website Bellingcat reported a surge in misinformation and disinformation. False or misleading videos related to the incident were found on various platforms, including X and TikTok.

Telegram, another social media network, was identified as a platform hosting such misleading content. Although it is not yet governed by the DSA, it will come under its jurisdiction when the legislation expands its reach to encompass smaller platforms from February onwards.

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