Big Tech bosses can “no longer hide” from the European Union’s censorship drive, said European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton.
The self-styled “digital enforcer” made the statement after threatening Facebook, X and TikTok with sanctions over their alleged failure to take down “illegal content” and “disinformation” in relation to the Hamas attacks on Israel.
Speaking to the French media, Breton insisted that the assault on Israel that began on October 7 would result in a lasting change in censorship policy within the EU.
“There will be a before and after [regarding] these attacks of October 7 on social networks as there was a before and after regarding September 11,” he said.
He added that his threatening letters to the platforms had a “dual objective”, one of which was to force action on the disturbing images relating to Hamas violence. In addition, he wanted to ensure social media companies know that “everyone has a responsibility in the European Union”.
“Mr Musk and Mr Zuckerberg are now responsible for what happens on their networks,” Breton said.
“The bosses of these platforms can no longer hide, at least not in the European Union.”
Elon Musk’s X has kowtowed to Brussels after the European Union’s censorship tsar Thierry Breton demanded a clampdown on “illegal” content linked to the Hamas attack on Israel. https://t.co/aGhCnmwCsZ
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) October 12, 2023
Although pushed out of the limelight by the crisis in the Middle East, Breton’s threats have rattled social media firms.
TikTok responded to the EU’s threats by publishing a statement insisting it is taking swift action against content Brussels has deemed unacceptable.
“We immediately mobilised significant resources and personnel to help maintain the safety of our community and integrity of our platform,” the company said.
Repeating Breton’s claims that the EU censorship project “supports free expression”, TikTok said it had “removed more than 500,000 videos and closed down 8,000 livestreams” relating to Israel and Palestine that had broken content guidelines.
The Chinese Communist Party-linked organisation also said it was fighting “misinformation” related to the conflict.
“We continue to proactively look for signs of deceptive behaviour on our platform,” TikTok claimed.
“This includes monitoring for behaviour that would indicate a covert influence operation, which we would disrupt and ban accounts identified as part of the network.”
TikTok added that it would continue reworking its censorship systems to “protect” users of the platform.
X has also responded to the threats made by Breton, who had praised the platform’s recent correspondence as being “very professional”.
Despite this, Breton said the EU still “considered it necessary to carry out an in-depth investigation into the measures taken” by Musk’s platform.
The EU's Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton has suggested the bloc could start cutting off problematic websites under new legislation. https://t.co/ypDSDgTI3u
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) September 13, 2023