EU urges Big Tech to tackle terrorist content after Hamas attack

By Martin Coulter

LONDON (Reuters) -The European Union has expanded that tech companies must remove illegal content from their platforms, or risk facing severe legal penalties.

Following the militant Islamist group Hamas’ attack on Israel and Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes in Palestinian enclave Gaza, social media firms have seen a surge in misinformation related to the conflict, including doctored images and mislabelled videos, alongside images of graphic violence.

On Tuesday, EU industry chief Thierry Breton told Elon Musk to curb disinformation on his messaging platform X, warning it was being used to disseminate illegal content and false information in the wake of recent violence in the Middle East.

Breton issued a similar warning to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, urging the company to ensure strict compliance with European law.

In his letters to Musk and Zuckerberg, Breton said their companies had 24 hours to inform the EU how they were stopping harmful content on their platforms.

Now, the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, has sought to remind all social media companies they are legally required to prevent the spread of harmful content related to Hamas.

“Content circulating online that can be associated to Hamas qualifies as terrorist content, is illegal, and needs to be removed under both the DSA (Digital Services Act) and TCO (Terrorist Content Online) Regulation,” a Commission spokesperson told Reuters.

“The Commission will fully apply the DSA and monitor the full implementation of the TCO. The Commission urges online platforms to fully comply with EU rules.”

The recently implemented DSA requires large online platforms, including X and Meta’s Facebook, to remove illegal content and to take measures to tackle the risks to public security and civic discourse.

Any firm found in breach of the DSA faces a fine worth up to 6% of global turnover, and repeat offenders could even be banned from operating in Europe altogether.

It is unclear if Breton has sent similar messages to other social media companies designated under the DSA.

(Reporting by Martin CoulterEditing by Bernadette Baum and Josie Kao)