Twitter worst offender among Big Tech for disinformation, EU warns

Senior official accuses Russia of ‘war of ideas to pollute our information space with half truths and lies’

Twitter has the worst rate of disinformation among all major social media platforms, the European Commission has said as it warns of the risks of the combination of artificial intelligence and fake news to upcoming elections.

“X, formerly Twitter . . . is the platform with the largest ratio of mis- or disinformation posts,” commission vice president Vera Jourova told reporters as major online platforms reported data on disinformation and their action to combat it for the first time.

Twitter, now known as X, did not file a report as it withdrew from a European Union code of conduct for online platforms.

However, Ms Jourova warned that owner Elon Musk, is “not off the hook” because the network remains bound by the Digital Services Act, which imposed new rules on tech giants since it came into force almost a year ago.


“My message for Twitter is you have to comply with the hard law, and we will be watching what you are doing,” Ms Jourova said. The platform did not respond to a request for comment.

YouTube owner Google, Facebook and Instagram owner Meta, LinkedIn owner Microsoft and video service TikTok are all signatories to the code of conduct.

These platforms all submitted reports to the commission that detailed data about misinformation on their platforms and steps taken to counter it, which were published for the first time this week.

Meta reported that it had removed 426 million fake accounts in the first six months of 2023, and estimated that fake accounts represent 4-5 per cent of its worldwide monthly active users.

It identified a Facebook network originating in China that conducted “co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour” targeting “Taiwan, Sub-Saharan Africa, Japan, Central Asia and the Uyghur community around the world” and was followed by 15,500 accounts, Meta reported.

Meta also shut down a network originating in Iran that had set up 40 Facebook accounts, eight Facebook pages and one group in order to target Israel, Bahrain and France, according to its report.

Twitter had the largest ratio of disinformation accounts and the highest prevalence of disinformation, according to a study of six online platforms released by the commission. It found that the social network had the “highest discoverability” of disinformation.

False information spread online focused on efforts to combat climate change such as the EU’s Green Deal, Ms Jourova said, “especially the measures against the traditional cars”.

Disinformation also targeted minorities of all kinds, including LGBT people, migrants and refugees, as well as focusing on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ms Jourova accused Moscow of funding a “multimillion-euro weapon of mass manipulation” to influence views in Russia and the European Union.

“The Russian state has engaged in the war of ideas to pollute our information space with half truths and lies, to create a false image that democracy is no better than autocracy,” she said.

She warned that the issue posed a “serious” risk to upcoming elections, particularly if artificial intelligence is used to mass publish false information.

“The combination of AI and disinformation is a nightmare.”

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times