Author: Nicolas Hénin & Maria Giovanna Sessa, EU DisinfoLab
- Created in 2006, X (formerly Twitter) has quickly become hugely popular for its ease of spreading messages and following them. The preferred network of opinion makers such as the media and politicians in many countries, it has also become one of the preferred platforms for auditing public opinion (“social listening“), to the point where it is perhaps exaggeratedly considered to be a reliable reflection of public debates.
- This position makes X a prime platform for influence and disinformation operations. However, unlike its large and wealthy competitor, Meta, X has a fragile business model and has not made a profit, except briefly in 2018 and 2019. This disproportion between X’s influence and its financial resources has led to an imbalance in the capacities it could deploy to counter harmful operations.
- In addition, Elon Musk’s takeover of X, announced in April 2022 and effective in October of the same year, has profoundly changed the company’s profile. Many employees were dismissed or resigned, particularly in the moderation and integrity functions. For instance, it is unclear if the content curation team working on “Topics, Trends descriptions, and Moments” is still active. The new owner reinstated many suspended accounts and promoted extremist conspiracy accounts or others supporting Russian narratives. Disinformation indicators spiked after this takeover.
- Finally, X informed the European Commission in May 2023 of its withdrawal from the EU voluntary Code of Practice against disinformation. While still part of it, the platform received criticism from the European Commission for being the only signatory to file an incomplete activity report and providing insufficient information on its counter-disinformation efforts.
- In July 2023, Musk announced that Twitter would be rebranded to X and that the bird logo would be retired. This brought many changes in how the platform addresses misinformation, in the direction of dismantling numerous counter-disinformation initiatives. However, references to some instruments and policies (e.g., X Moments or pre-bunking) are still available on the platform, causing confusion regarding what is still available.
- As a Very Large Online Platform (VLOP), X has to comply with the Digital Services Act (DSA)’s requirements. In the meantime, rumour has it that Elon Musk might consider removing the platform from Europe due to the legislation.
- In December 2023, the European Commission opened formal proceedings against X to assess whether the platform may have breached the DSA regarding risk management, content moderation, ad transparency and access to data for researchers.
Since its ownership change in 2022, the company operating Twitter has announced permanent updates to their policies and the staff in charge of implementing them. As a consequence, this document may already be outdated a few hours after publication, having been last updated as of 11 January 2024. However, the added value in compiling such a factsheet is providing a reference for past policies implemented by X (formerly Twitter) in order to understand future developments better.
The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of EU DisinfoLab. These factsheets do not represent an endorsement by EU DisinfoLab of any organisation.