Israel-Hamas war: how social media companies are handling the response

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Following the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, social media companies are facing increased pressure to crack down on violent content, hate speech, and disinformation.

Some social platforms are already sharing details of their response: Meta is tightening security measures amidst an increase in content violating its rules, while TikTok has also committed to stepping up its moderation in the wake of the attacks.

Despite this, both Meta and TikTok are facing scrutiny from the European Commission over whether their response complies with the Digital Services Act, a set of rules that hold large social media companies accountable for preventing illegal content from being posted to their platforms.

The European Commission is looking into the way X (formerly Twitter) is handling the Israel-Hamas war as well and also sent a letter to YouTube to remind the company of its responsibility to keep illegal content and disinformation off its platform.

Here are all the updates on what social platforms are doing in response to the Israel-Hamas war.

  • Illustration of a series of blue microphones on a teal background.

    Illustration of a series of blue microphones on a teal background.

    Illustration by Kristen Radtke / The Verge; Getty Images

    I have been paying close attention to Brookings’ political podcast database over the past week and a half to see how discussion of the war is taking shape. This is a highly underrated tool and an essential one if you care about the state of political podcasting. It looks at the top political podcasts on the left and right on Apple Podcasts (i.e., no Rogan) and catalogs what they’re talking about. One feature breaks out the most-discussed topics on each side, and the language used is telling about how conservative podcasters are approaching the topic versus liberal ones.

    Immediately after the terrorist attacks on October 7th, conservative podcasters cornered the conversation. While “Israel” was the number one topic for conservative shows, it didn’t crack the top 10 on liberal shows. That has changed as the conflict has escalated into war, with “Israel” being the number one topic for both sides in the past week, but you can still see the difference in language and approach. 

    Read Article >

  • An illustration of the EU flag.

    An illustration of the EU flag.

    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    The European Commission is formally requesting information from Meta and TikTok on how they’re handling illegal content and disinformation related to the war in Israel. The inquiry comes as part of the European Union’s newly enacted Digital Services Act (DSA), which holds large online platforms legally accountable for the content posted to them.

    Both platforms have until October 25th to respond to the Commission’s request. From there, the Commission will evaluate their responses and “assess next steps.”

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  • It’s TikTok’s turn to explain how it’s moderating the Israel-Hamas conflict.

    First was X, then came Meta, now TikTok has put out a blog post on its moderation policies in response to EU commissioner Thierry Breton. The video platform says it’s removed over 500,000 videos and 8,000 livestreams in the region since the attacks on October 7th, and has also added more Arabic and Hebrew-speaking moderators to its ranks.

  • YouTube logo image in red over a geometric red, black, and cream background

    YouTube logo image in red over a geometric red, black, and cream background

    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    European Commissioner Thierry Breton sent a letter to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai reminding him of the company’s obligations under the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) as a large online platform to keep illegal content and disinformation from being shared on YouTube surrounding Israel’s war with Hamas.

    “Following the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel, we are seeing a surge of illegal content and disinformation being disseminated in the EU via certain platforms,” Breton wrote. He added that YouTube has an obligation to protect children and teens in the EU from violent content on the platform, must promptly take action in response to notices from the EU, and have “proportionate and effective mitigation measures in place” to tackle risks from disinformation.

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  • Meta logo on a red background with repeating black icons, giving a squiggly effect.

    Meta logo on a red background with repeating black icons, giving a squiggly effect.

    Image: Nick Barclay / The Verge

    In the three days following the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel on October 7th, Meta says it removed “seven times as many pieces of content on a daily basis” for violating its Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy in Hebrew and Arabic versus the two months prior. The disclosure came as part of a blog post in which the social media company outlined its moderation efforts during the ongoing war in Israel.

    Although it doesn’t mention the EU or its Digital Services Act, Meta’s blog post was published days after European Commissioner Thierry Breton wrote an open letter to Meta reminding the company of its obligations to limit disinformation and illegal content on its platforms. Breton wrote that the Commission is “seeing a surge of illegal content and disinformation being disseminated in the EU via certain platforms” and “urgently” asked Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to “ensure that your systems are effective.” The commissioner has also written similar letters to X, the company formerly known as Twitter, as well as TikTok. 

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  • elon musk with question mark wallpaper

    elon musk with question mark wallpaper

    Illustration by Laura Normand / The Verge

    The European Union (EU) has formally opened an investigation into X, the platform previously known as Twitter, to ensure it’s complying with the Digital Services Act (DSA) following Hamas’ attack on Israel in early October and subsequent Israeli air assault on Gaza. According to the request, this comes after “indications received by the Commission services of the alleged spreading of illegal content and disinformation, in particular the spreading of terrorist and violent content and hate speech.”

    Earlier this week, EU Commissioner Thierry Breton sent a letter to X owner Elon Musk alleging that the platform is “being used to disseminate illegal content and disinformation in the EU.”

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  • An image showing the X logo superimposed on the Twitter logo

    An image showing the X logo superimposed on the Twitter logo

    Image: The Verge

    X CEO Linda Yaccarino says the social media platform formerly known as Twitter has identified and removed “hundreds” of Hamas-affiliated accounts and has “taken action to remove or label tens of thousands of pieces of content” in the wake of terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel. Yaccarino’s letter comes in response to concerns raised by EU Commissioner Thierry Breton that X is being used to “disseminate illegal content and disinformation” in possible violation of the EU’s tough new Digital Services Act (DSA).

    The back-and-forth between X and the European Union comes as the EU implements the DSA, which imposes obligations on large online platforms to remove illegal content and mitigate risks to public security more generally. In addition to X, Breton has also written to Meta to remind it of its obligations under the DSA.

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  • The image shows the stars from the European Union’s flag over a black background framed with blue.

    The image shows the stars from the European Union’s flag over a black background framed with blue.

    Illustration: The Verge

    European Commissioner Thierry Breton warned Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg Wednesday that failing to remove pro-Hamas content across his platforms could put the company in violation of new EU moderation regulations. 

    In a letter to Zuckerberg Wednesday, Breton urged Meta “to be very vigilant” in removing illegal terrorist content and hate speech amid the ongoing war in Israel. Breton said that the European Commission had seen “a surge of illegal content and disinformation being disseminated in the EU,” potentially putting social media platforms in violation of its Digital Services Act, or DSA.

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  • An image showing the Threads logo

    An image showing the Threads logo

    Image: The Verge

    This is Platformer, a newsletter on the intersection of Silicon Valley and democracy from Casey Newton and Zoë Schiffer. Sign up here.

    Today, after a long weekend of awful terrorist violence in Israel, let’s talk about the shifting landscape for social networks amid the current crisis — and consider the path ahead for Meta’s Threads app.

    Read Article >

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