Meta faces EU probe over spread of political disinformation

The European Commission launched an investigation into Meta over the spread of political disinformation on its platforms and to assess whether it violated European regulations, the commission announced Tuesday.

The probe into the California-based parent company of Facebook and Instagram will focus on how some of Meta’s policies related to political and election content may be in violation of the EU’s Digital Services Act, a wide-ranging set of tech regulations that went into effect in February.

Part of the inquiry will focus on Meta’s “deceptive advertisements and disinformation,” which could pose risks to consumers and civic discourse, the commission said in the announcement.

The inquiry will also target Meta’s policy that aims to limit the visibility of political content. The commission will look into whether that policy is compliant with the Digital Service Act’s requirements for transparency, and to mitigate risks to civic discourse and electoral processes.

The EU’s inquiry also targets Meta’s decision to shut down the CrowdTangle tool, which allowed researchers and journalists to track potential misinformation on the social media giant’s platforms. The EU’s inquiry will look into the “non-availability of an effective third-party real-time” election monitoring tool ahead of elections in the EU and member states, and whether it is out of compliance with the bloc’s digital regulations.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen underscored the need for the inquiry ahead of the elections coming up across Europe.

“This Commission has created means to protect European citizens from targeted disinformation and manipulation by third countries. If we suspect a violation of the rules, we act. This is true at all times, but especially in times of democratic elections. Big digital platforms must live up to their obligations to put enough resources into this and today’s decision shows that we are serious about compliance,” Leyen said.

In a statement to The Associated Press, Meta said, “We have a well established process for identifying and mitigating risks on our platforms.”

“We look forward to continuing our cooperation with the European Commission and providing them with further details of this work,” the statement added.

The Hill reached out to Meta for comment.

This is an initial step from the commission as part of an inquiry. Opening the formal proceedings allows the commission to take further enforcement, and to seek more information.

It is the latest action the EU has taken to address potential violations of tech companies under the Digital Services Act.

Another U.S.-based tech company, the social platform X, is also under EU investigation.

The EU has also launched investigations into the Chinese-owned company TikTok.

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