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Musk’s X has taken down hundreds of Hamas-linked accounts, CEO says

LONDON (AP) — Elon Musk’s social media platform X has removed hundreds of Hamas-linked accounts and taken down or labeled thousands of pieces of content since the militant group’s attack on Israel, according to the CEO of the company formerly known as Twitter.

Linda Yaccarino on Thursday outlined efforts by X to get a handle on illegal content flourishing on the platform. She was responding to a demand from a top European Union official this week for information on how X is complying with the EU’s tough new digital rules during the Israel-Hamas war.

“X is proportionately and effectively assessing and addressing identified fake and manipulated content during this constantly evolving and shifting crisis,” Yaccarino said in a letter to European Commissioner Thierry Breton, the 27-nation bloc’s digital enforcer.

Since the war erupted, photos and videos have flooded social media of the carnage, including haunting footage of Hamas fighters taking terrified Israelis hostage, alongside posts from users pushing false claims and misrepresenting videos from other events.

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Changes that Musk has made to the platform since he bought it last year mean accounts that subscribe to X’s blue-check service can get paid if their posts go viral, creating a financial incentive to post whatever gets the most reaction. Plus, X’s workforce — including its content moderation team — has been gutted.

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Those changes are running up against the EU’s Digital Services Act, which took effect in August. It forces social media companies to step up policing of their platforms for illegal content, such as terrorist material or illegal hate speech, under threat of hefty fines.

“There is no place on X for terrorist organizations or violent extremist groups and we continue to remove such accounts in real time, including proactive efforts,” Yaccarino wrote in the letter posted to X.

X has taken action to “remove or label tens of thousands of pieces of content,” Yaccarino said, pointing out that there are 700 unique Community Notes — a feature that allows users to add their own fact-checks to posts — “related to the attacks and unfolding events.”

The platform has been “responding promptly” and in a “diligent and objective manner” to takedown requests from law enforcement agencies from around the world, including more than 80 from EU member states, Yaccarino said.

Since Musk acquired Twitter and renamed it, experts say the platform has become not just unreliable but actively promotes falsehoods, while a study commissioned by the EU found that it’s the worst-performing platform for online disinformation.

Rivals such as TikTok, YouTube and Facebook also are coping with a flood of unsubstantiated rumors and falsehoods about the Middle Eastern conflict, playing the typical whack-a-mole that erupts each time a news event captures world attention.