EU Officials Raise Concerns with Google and YouTube over Disinformation in Hamas-Israel Conflict
In a recent development, the European Commission has sent a stern warning to both Google and its subsidiary, YouTube, concerning disinformation and graphic content related to the Hamas-Israel conflict. This action forms part of the European Union's latest efforts to scrutinize Big Tech's handling of the war.
The warning was conveyed via a letter from European Commissioner Thierry Breton to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Neal Mohan. The letter serves as a reminder of the companies' content moderation obligations under the European Union's Digital Services Act (DSA). The details of the letter were also shared on X.
Concerns about Disinformation and Graphic Content
The European Union scrutinizes Big Tech's handling of the Hamas-Israel war, warning Google and YouTube about disinformation and graphic content. Breton emphasized the legal requirements for Google to restrict access to graphic content like hostage videos for underage users. The company is also expected to act swiftly when authorities flag content that violates European laws and to counteract disinformation.
Breton touched on the issue of disinformation in the context of elections, a topic he had personally discussed with the company during a meeting in Brussels in May. The letter also warned of potential penalties if a future investigation found Google non-compliant with the DSA.
A Series of Warnings
Breton's warning to Google and YouTube follows similar letters sent to X, formerly known as Twitter, and Meta and TikTok. Unlike these previous letters, Breton's correspondence with Google did not directly accuse the company of spreading misleading or illegal content. Instead, Breton requested a report from Google "in a prompt, accurate and complete manner."
In response to the warning, YouTube spokeswoman Ivy Choi stated that the company has been proactively working to remove offensive videos. She revealed that their teams had drawn thousands of harmful videos after the devastating attacks on civilians in Israel and the escalating conflict between Israel and Gaza. Choi also noted that YouTube's teams are continuously monitoring for harmful footage and taking swift action across all features of YouTube, including videos, shorts, and livestreams.
Since the onset of Hamas' attacks on Israel, YouTube had previously informed that their teams had removed thousands of videos and that monitoring for hate speech, extremism, graphic imagery, and other content violating its policies was ongoing. Furthermore, a review indicated that YouTube's search results related to the war predominantly feature videos from mainstream news organizations.