Twitter, aka X, tops charts for misinformation, EU official says

In measure of fakery, Musk's social media biz has highest noise-to-signal ratio

European Commission veep Vera Jourova said in a speech on Tuesday that Elon Musk's social media service X, formerly known as Twitter, has the highest ratio of disinformation among large social media platforms.

Jourova provided an update on the status of the European Union's Code of Practice on Disinformation of 2022, a voluntary framework for dealing with disinformation and misinformation.

"Disinformation is not new, nor does it happen only on online platforms," said Jourova in a press statement. "But with increasing digitalization, malicious actors have gained new ways to try to undermine our democracies."

Jourova said signatories of the code should understand the risk of disinformation in the context of current events, specifically Russia's war against Ukraine and the EU elections next year.

"The Russian state has engaged in the war of ideas to pollute our information space with half-truth and lies to create a false image that democracy is no better than autocracy," she said.

Europe, relevant digital platforms, and the rest of the world need to address the risk of social media manipulation, she warned.

Forty-four companies so far have become signatories of the Code, including Google, Meta, Microsoft, and TikTok, each of which provided July transparency reports to document their platform integrity efforts during the first half of the year. Twitter/X is not among them any more.

Google's report, for example, says among other things that its YouTube subsidiary removed more than 400 channels between January and April 2023 for carrying coordinated influence operations tied to the Russian-state sponsored Internet Research Agency (IRA). And Microsoft's report says that the company's LinkedIn subsidiary prevented the creation of 6.7 million fake accounts in the first six months of 2023.

Twitter used to be a signatory but abandoned that commitment in May following the service's acquisition by Musk last year. In doing so, the social media platform, which has seen its ad revenue plummet under Musk's stewardship, appears to be inviting a regulatory challenge. Under the EU's Digital Services Act, as of August 25, digital platforms also face legal requirements to address fake news and coordinated influence operations.

"X, former Twitter, who is not under the Code any more, is the platform with the largest ratio of mis/disinformation posts," said Jourova, basing her conclusion on a report [PDF] compiled by TrustLab, a venture-backed online safety company.

The TrustLab report looks at disinformation and misinformation at Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube across three countries: Poland, Slovakia, and Spain.

In the report, Twitter stands out for having the highest discoverability of misinformation. Also, "Mis/disinformation content received more engagement than non-mis/disinformation content on Twitter," the report says.

Asked to comment, X/Twitter answered with an autoresponder: "Busy now, please check back later." ®

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