EU official gives Mark Zuckerberg 24 hours to respond to Israel misinformation concerns

It comes a day after a similar letter to X owner Elon Musk.

Leah Millis / reuters

Elon Musk isn’t the only billionaire CEO receiving stern letters this week from Thierry Breton, the European Union’s regulatory commissioner. Following a similar one to Elon Musk, Breton posted a single-page correspondence (via CNBC) he penned to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg today, giving the Facebook founder 24 hours to respond. The letter acknowledges areas where Meta’s content moderation has improved but raises concerns about misinformation (including deepfakes) on the company’s social platforms as the bloody Israel-Hamas war continues.

“In light of a number of serious recent developments, let me recall the precise obligations regarding content moderation under the EU Digital Services Act,” Breton wrote in the letter. “Firstly, following the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel, we are seeing a surge of illegal content and disinformation being disseminated in the EU via certain platforms,” Breton wrote.

“I would ask you to be very vigilant to ensure strict compliance with the DSA rules on terms of service, on the requirement of timely, diligent and objective action following notices of illegal content in the EU, and on the need for proportionate and effective mitigation measures,” the commissioner wrote. “I urgently invite you to ensure that your systems are effective.”

EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton looks on during a news conference after a visit in an ammunition factory in Nowa Deba, Poland, March 27, 2023. Patryk Ogorzalek/Agencja via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND.
Thierry Breton (Agencja / reuters)

The EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) requires social companies like Meta to moderate and remove illegal and harmful content. The law, passed in 2022, mandates that platforms operating in the EU be more proactive in policing malicious material. It can levy fines of up to six percent of infringing companies’ total revenue, enough to effectively serve as a “stick” against the deep-pocketed social behemoths.

Breton acknowledged the company’s improvements in certain areas. “We have noted steps taken by Meta to increase mitigation measures in the run-up to the recent elections in Slovakia — such as increased cooperation with independent authorities, improvements in response times, and increased fact-checking,” the letter reads.

However, it raises concerns about deepfakes and other digitally altered content with potential real-world ramifications. “We have also been made aware of reports of a significant number of deep fakes and manipulated content which circulated on your platforms and a few still appear online,” Breton wrote. “I remind you that the DSA requires that the risk of amplification of fake and manipulated images and facts generated with the intention to influence elections is taken extremely seriously in the context of mitigation measures.”

Breton asked Zuckerberg to communicate with the commissioner’s team “without delay” on the details of measures the company has taken to mitigate deepfakes and counter election-related misinformation.

“My team will follow up shortly with a specific request on a number of other issues of DSA compliance that deserve immediate attention,” the letter closed. “The DSA is here to protect free speech against arbitrary decisions, and at the same time protect our citizens and democracies.”