WASHINGTON, DC – Today, The Tech Oversight Project issued the following statement amid reports that X has gutted its already decimated election integrity and threats team. The news follows a European Commission report showing that the largest increase in disinformation and Russian propaganda has occurred on X.
The report states, “Initial quantitative analysis suggests that compliance with the Code of Practice was insufficient also in the months after they submitted their first progress reports in January. In fact, the reach of pro-Kremlin accounts has increased between January and May of 2023, with average engagement rising by 22 percent across online platforms. However, this increased reach was largely driven by Twitter, where engagement grew by 36 percent after CEO Elon Musk decided to lift mitigation measures on Kremlin-backed accounts, arguing that ‘all news is to some degree propaganda.’”
“Since taking charge of X, Elon Musk has used the platform to foment antisemitism, hate speech, and disinformation — playing into the hands of bad actors like Russia, China, and Iran. Decimating their election integrity team — on top of last year’s firings — means that X will continue to be a toxic hellscape that people and advertisers should avoid,” said Kyle Morse, Deputy Executive Director of the Tech Oversight Project. “We’ve heard the same broken promises from Meta and Google, and when push came to shove, the companies would rather compromise our democracy, pollute our information ecosystem, and break their own terms of service. Lawmakers, regulators, and advertisers need to put stock in Big Tech’s actions, not their spin.”
Additional Key Findings from EU Report:
- Social media companies enabled Russia to carry out disinformation and propaganda campaigns that reached 165 million people in the EU block – roughly 1-in-3 people.
- The disinformation campaigns had a total reach of 16 billion views.
- The effectiveness of Russia’s campaigns and Big Tech’s failure to invest in product safety should set off alarm bells with the European Union and the United States both holding elections next year.
- The report analyses Russia’s tactics beyond pure propaganda – inauthentic campaigns, cross-platform organizing on Telegram, spamming reporters, getting content pulled down, and banning accounts for news outlets and reporters.
- The subscriber numbers of pro-Kremlin channels more than tripled on Telegram since the start of the war, more than doubled on TikTok, and rose by almost 90 percent on YouTube.
- Meta was by far and away the largest venue and frequent target of Russian operations.
- The report also shows that if the Digital Services Act had been implemented, ALL of the social media platforms would be found in violation.