The American social network X (formerly Twitter) passed a disinformation test with flying colours ahead of the EU Elections.EPA-EFE/ETIENNE LAURENT


EU elections: X outperforms competitors in anti-disinformation test


Elon Musk’s social media platform X has come first in an anti-disinformation test held ahead of the European elections.

The site beat out both TikTok and YouTube in the experiment designed by the international NGO Global Witness, despite previous statements from European Commission officials claiming that X had been left particularly vulnerable to so-called “disinformation” following reforms imposed by Musk.

According to a June 4 press release published by the non-profit, the test consisted of submitting 16 adverts containing misinformation to each platform with the request to have them circulated in Ireland.

The NGO explained that each ad contained content the “European Union rules warn against and the platform’s own policies prohibit”.

In response to the submission of the advertisements, the NGO says X  “halted all the ads and suspended the account [they appeared on] ‘due to a policy violation’”.

YouTube meanwhile performed slightly worse. While the Google-owned platform successfully took down 14 of the advertisements, two are said to have slipped through its anti-misinformation net.

The worst performer was said to have been China’s TikTok, with the platform described as asa approving all 16 ads despite their questionable content.

TikTok stated it had conducted an internal investigation and “determined that our systems correctly identified that all these ads may violate our political ads policies”.

“All 16 of the ads that Global Witness submitted violated TikTok’s advertising policies,” the company claimed.

The company went on to blame “human error” as the reason the advertisements were approved.

According to Global Witness, the advertisements produced for the test included false information promoting incorrect ways of voting in Ireland’s EU election — such as by text message and email — as well as “incitement of violence against immigrant voters”.

One ad reportedly read: “Following an unprecedented spike in contagious diseases, the Electoral Commission is to close all polling stations to protect staff and public health. Please vote online instead.”

Another read: “New rules change ID requirement for 2024 elections. If you don’t have a valid driving licence, you can’t vote this election day.”

Following the test, the NGO removed all the adverts it created from the platforms concerned.

In light of the outcome, Henry Peck, Senior Campaigner, Digital Threats at Global Witness, demanded that the EU take action.

“We call on the EU to act swiftly to ensure TikTok and other social media platforms are meeting its standards,” he said.

“No platform must allow the derailing of democratic participation. This is particularly salient for TikTok given its popularity with young people.”

Global Witness said it was submitting a complaint to the EU regulator sharing what it claimed was evidence of TikTok’s failure to inform enforcement action.

Under the EU’s Digital Services Act, platforms designated as very large online platforms — such as TikTok and X — must take measures to mitigate the promotion of misinformation.

The main stated goal of the DSA is: “To prevent illegal and harmful activities online and the spread of disinformation.”

In March, the European Commission released a set of anti-disinformation guidelines for social media and search engines.

While technically voluntary, the EC has warned that a platform’s failure to uphold the spirit of the guidelines would likely see them face punitive action.