European Commission Takes Aim at Big Tech Over Disinformation

The European Commission issued a stark warning to internet giant Google and its popular video platform subsidiary, YouTube, last Friday

by Faruk Imamovic
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European Commission Takes Aim at Big Tech Over Disinformation
© Getty Images News/Kena Betancur

The European Commission issued a stark warning to internet giant Google and its popular video platform subsidiary, YouTube, last Friday. This move is the latest in a series of actions taken by the European Union to hold Big Tech accountable for their management of content related to the ongoing Hamas-Israel conflict.

Holding Tech Giants Accountable

The communication from European Commissioner Thierry Breton was addressed to both Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Neal Mohan. In the correspondence, which Breton later shared on an undisclosed platform denoted as 'X', the Commissioner emphasized the importance of Google and YouTube's adherence to the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA).

Breton stressed several key points in his letter. Firstly, he underscored the necessity for Google to shield underage users from graphic content, such as hostage videos. Furthermore, the tech companies are expected to respond promptly when EU authorities identify content that contravenes European regulations.

Lastly, the commissioner emphasized the paramount importance of combatting disinformation, especially in the context of imminent elections in various EU nations. Drawing attention to a meeting in Brussels earlier this year, Breton mentioned, “This brings me to a second area of pressing concern: tackling disinformation in the context of elections, a priority which we personally discussed when we met in Brussels in May”.

Ramifications for Non-compliance

The letter did not merely serve as a reminder of Big Tech's responsibilities but also carried with it the weight of potential consequences. The commissioner cautioned Google and YouTube of possible penalties should they be found in violation of the DSA in any ensuing investigations.

It's worth noting that Google and YouTube aren't the only platforms under the Commission's radar. Earlier in the week, Breton dispatched similar cautionary letters to other major platforms, including the platform previously known as Twitter, as well as to Meta and TikTok.

Big Tech Responds

Reacting to the Commission's concerns, YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi stated that the platform has been proactive in addressing problematic content. She remarked, “Following the devastating attacks on civilians in Israel and the escalating conflict in Israel and Gaza, our teams have removed thousands of harmful videos.

Furthermore, our systems continue to direct users towards reliable news and information”. Choi also added that the platform's teams remain vigilant, working tirelessly to promptly address and remove harmful content across all YouTube's services, from standard videos to Shorts and live broadcasts.

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