EU Commissioner Thierry Breton has been sending warning letters to online platforms, reminding them of their duty to address disinformation going around regarding the Israel-Hamas war. Now Breton has written a letter addressed to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, reminding him of the company’s “precise obligations regarding content moderation under the EU Digital Services Act.” Specifically, Breton is asking Alphabet to be “very vigilant” when it comes to Israel-Hamas-related content posted on YouTube.
The European Commission has been seeing a “surge of illegal content and disinformation” being disseminated via certain platforms, he said, telling Pichai that Alphabet has an obligation to protect children and teens from “violent content depicting hostage taking and other graphic videos.” Breton also warned Pichai that if Alphabet receives notices of illegal content from the EU, it must respond in a timely manner. Finally, he reminded the CEO that the company must have mitigation measures in place to address “civic discourse stemming from disinformation.” The video-sharing service must also adequately differentiate reliable news sources from terrorist propaganda and manipulated content, such as clickbait videos.
YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi told The Verge that the service has “removed tens of thousands of harmful videos and terminated hundreds of channels” following the attacks in Israel and the “conflict now underway in Israel and Gaza.” The platform’s systems, she added, “continue to connect people with high-quality news and information.” She also said that YouTube’s teams are “working around the clock to monitor for harmful footage and remain vigilant to take action quickly if needed on all types of content, including Shorts and livestreams.”
Breton was the same the official who had previously sent Elon Musk an “urgent” letter about the spread of disinformation on X amid the Israel-Hamas war. He called out the spread of “fake and manipulated images and facts circulating on [the platform formerly known as Twitter] in the EU, such as repurposed old images of unrelated armed conflicts or military footage that actually originated from video games.” X CEO Linda Yaccarino published the company’s response a day later, claiming to have removed or labeled “tens of thousands of pieces of content” and to have deleted hundreds of Hamas-affiliated accounts from the platform. Even so, the European Union still opened an investigation into X for the lackluster moderation of illegal content and disinformation related to the war.
The EU commissioner also sent Meta a stern letter, voicing similar concerns about misinformation on its platforms. Meta responded by saying that “expert teams from across [ts] company have been working around the clock to monitor [its] platforms while protecting people’s ability to use [its] apps to shed light on important developments happening on the ground.” Breton sent TikTok a letter about disinformation spreading on its platform related to the Israel-Hamas war, as well, giving the company 24 hours to explain how it’s complying with EU law.
In addition to asking YouTube to keep a close eye on Israel-Hamas disinformation, Breton also tackled the issue of election-related disinformation in his letter. He is asking the service to notify his team of the measures it has taken to mitigate deepfakes “in light of upcoming elections in Poland, The Netherlands, Lithuania, Belgium, Croatia, Romania and Austria, and the European Parliament elections.”