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X-tremely troubling: Reps Goldman and Raskin demand Musk address anti-Semitic, terroristic posts, misinfo

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Congressmembers Dan Goldman and Jamie Raskin on Tuesday wrote a letter to X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk and Linda Yaccarino, the social media company’s C.E.O., demanding that X “address failures in applying its anti-misinformation and anti-violence policies to Hamas terrorist propaganda and that X cease profiting off this content.”

The letter was signed by 25 other members of Congress.

Following the Oct. 7 terrorist attack against Israel, analysts have documented surging, graphic violent content and misinformation on the platform, including Hamas’s terroristic propaganda videos. According to Goldman and Raskin, much of this content violates X’s platform policies, which prohibit “engaging in or promoting violent acts.”

“Several weeks ago,” the politicians wrote, “reports from multiple nonprofit research groups showed X Premium accounts spreading Hamas terrorist propaganda videos glorifying barbaric acts of violence against Israelis. Further, these reports demonstrated that X is profiting from the spread of this gruesome and harmful propaganda through account subscription fees and ad revenue.

“As of today, most of the terrorist propaganda posts flagged by [European Union researchers] inexplicably remain live on your platform,” they continued. “Given the many flagrant examples of X profiting off this content, we need detailed answers from X in considering potential legislation that would prevent such activity in the future.”

Goldman and Raskin called on X to abide by its regulatory policies, particularly its “violent and hateful entities’ guidelines,” and provide written answers to their questions about persistent misinformation and violent content on X, including: why the violating posts and accounts were allowed to remain live for days after being publicized; what action X plans to take about Hamas-related content currently on the platform; and what changes X plans to ensure that the harmful spread of terrorist propaganda does not happen again.

In their letter to Musk and Yaccarino, Goldman and Raskin wrote, in part, “This follows a troubling pattern of increased antisemitism on the platform since Mr. Musk’s purchase. A March 2023 study by CASM Technology and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) documented a near-doubling of the total number of antisemitic tweets in his first three months of ownership. In September, in response to this dramatic increase of antisemitism on X, Israel’s prime minister personally urged Mr. Musk to tackle antisemitism on the platform.

“Now, in the days following Hamas’s horrific October 7th terrorist attack on Israel, we’ve seen an inexcusable situation become outright indefensible.

“On October 12,” they continued, “a report from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) documented numerous examples of X Premium accounts openly spreading Hamas propaganda videos — the same videos featured on the website of the military wing of Hamas, the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades (EQB), which has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States. These videos, which included Hamas branding and imagery, featured scenes of bloodied bodies on the ground, gunmen shooting at buildings with automatic weapons, and rocket and drone attacks on Israeli tanks and vehicles. …

“…In a 24-hour period, ISD researchers identified 128 posts from 45 unique accounts ‘containing glorification and support for terrorist content on X.’ Researchers described uncensored videos depicting the desecration of corpses and ‘CCTV footage in which civilians are shot and subsequently dragged from their vehicles.’

“ISD explains that these posts were surfaced by searching for the ‘al-Aqsa Storm’ hashtag in Arabic. This same hashtag is also used by many X users to provide updates and track the conflict generally, leading researchers to conclude that ‘average users trying to engage with the rapid escalation of events on the ground will likely be exposed to al-Qassem propaganda.’

“This terrorist propaganda is not confined to the darkest corners of your platform. Both TTP and ISD reports note that one of the accounts spreading the unedited Hamas propaganda videos is @WarMonitors, an account which Mr. Musk personally endorsed as a good source for ‘following the war in real time” before deleting the post when informed of its history of antisemitism.’

“…ISD researchers reported that at least 20 out of 45 accounts it found to have posted terrorist propaganda were X Premium accounts, meaning that they are paying for verification without any formalized vetting process and being promoted by the website’s algorithm.

“Researchers also documented multiple instances in which X placed ‘conversation ads’ in the replies of Hamas propaganda videos circulated by these Premium accounts. TTP noted ads from the American Investment Council and the National Football League in the replies of posts from the EQB’s @Pal_resi48 account, which misleads users into believing that these companies agree with or actively support the Hamas propaganda spread by these accounts. …

“Given X’s major cuts to content moderation staff over the last year,” the two pols further said, “it appears that X has willfully permitted, and benefited from, the illegal spread of terrorist propaganda. Such behavior from one of the world’s most widely used social media platforms is wholly unacceptable. …

“We are demanding that you uphold your public commitments and enforce your policies,” the congressmembers declared. “Accordingly, no later than December 1, 2023, we request that you provide all forms of written communications, including email, text messages, other messaging services, or X direct messages, relating to content moderation for any posts or accounts associated with, related to, or connected to Hamas.”

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