EU probes Meta for killing tool that enables real-time election monitoring

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The European Commission today accused Meta of violating rules related to deceptive advertising, political content, and election monitoring. The owner of Facebook and Instagram “may have breached the Digital Services Act (DSA),” the EU government body said in a press release.

“The Commission suspects that Meta does not comply with DSA obligations related to addressing the dissemination of deceptive advertisements, disinformation campaigns, and coordinated inauthentic behavior in the EU,” the EC said. “The proliferation of such content may present a risk to civic discourse, electoral processes and fundamental rights, as well as consumer protection.”

The EC alleged “that the mechanism for flagging illegal content on the services (‘Notice-and-Action’) as well as the user redress and internal complaint-mechanisms are not compliant with the requirements of the Digital Services Act and that there are shortcomings in Meta’s provision of access to publicly available data to researchers.”

The EC also called out the lack of “an effective third-party real-time civic discourse and election-monitoring tool ahead of the upcoming elections to the European Parliament and other elections in various Member States.” This is related to Meta’s plan to discontinue the data analysis tool CrowdTangle on August 14.

“Meta is in the process of deprecating ‘CrowdTangle,’ a public insights tool that enables real-time election monitoring by researchers, journalists and civil society, including through live visual dashboards, without an adequate replacement,” the press release said. The EC said it suspects that “Meta has failed to diligently assess and adequately mitigate risks related to Facebook’s and Instagram’s effects on civic discourse and electoral processes and other systemic risks.”

The agency is opening formal proceedings to make a final determination on whether Meta violated the DSA. The decision to investigate further is based on Meta’s replies to the commission’s requests for information, a risk assessment report submitted by Meta, as well as “publicly available reports and the Commission’s own analysis.”

Meta defended its practices today. “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,” a Meta spokesperson said, according to Reuters. We contacted Meta and will update this story if it has any further comment.

Elon Musk’s X platform is already under formal investigation for potential DSA violations. The law allows for fines of up to 6 percent of global revenue.

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