Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on January 31, 2024 in Washington, DC.

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Meta on Tuesday was hit by the European Commission — the executive body of the European Union — with a major investigation into its compliance with the EU’s strict internet content rules.

The Commission said it is investigating Meta over concerns the company hasn’t done enough to ensure effective combatting of disinformation ahead of upcoming European Parliament elections.

The European Parliament elections are due to take place on June 6-9.

In the Commission’s statement Tuesday, it said it suspects Meta is incompliant with DSA (Digital Services Act) obligations regarding tackling deceptive advertisements, disinformation campaigns, and coordinated inauthentic behavior in the EU.

The Commission also said Meta may have infringed the DSA by demoting political content in the recommendation systems of Instagram and Facebook, which it said may have violated transparency requirements.

“We have a well-established process for identifying and mitigating risks on our platforms,” a Meta spokesperson told CNBC via email.

“We look forward to continuing our cooperation with the European Commission and providing them with further details of this work.”

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The bloc also took issue with the lack of availability of an effective third-party, real-time civil discourse and election-monitoring tool ahead of upcoming elections to the European Parliament, plus other votes in various individual member states.

It said Meta is in the process of depreciating its CrowdTangle tool, which is a public insights tool enabling real-time election monitoring by researchers, journalists, and civil society through visual dashboards.

For its part, Meta maintains that CrowdTangle is an inefficient election monitoring tool as it lacks enough publicly available data. The company is building new tools on its systems to provide access to more comprehensive data from its platforms.

Potential big fine

Meta is accused of infringing the Digital Services Act, which is a ground-breaking EU law introduced in late 2020 to set out how regulators take a closer eye on tech giants’ content moderation measures as well as efforts to tackle manipulation of elections.

The DSA, which entered into force on Feb. 17, 2024, requires internet giants to give users information on why they’re being recommended certain websites or other details, and the possibility to opt-out.

Ads on those platforms also have to include a label on who paid for them.

The rules also include provisions for ensuring that platforms mitigate risks of election misinformation and manipulation.

Last week, the Commission conducted a “stress test” to test platforms’ readiness to address manipulative behavior in the run-up to elections.

The regulator said it “detected gaps and areas of improvement,” and identified ways to enhance and strengthen cooperation between stakeholders.

Meta qualifies as a Very Large Online Platform (VLOP) under the EU’s DSA law, meaning it faces stricter controls from regulators and potentially heftier fines if it deviates from the rules in the region.

Failure to comply with the rules could lead to fines of up to 6% of the firm’s global turnover and, ultimately, could lead to a temporary ban from operating in the region.

The Commission said it will continue to gather evidence from Meta, for example by sending additional requests for information or conducting interviews and inspections.

The bloc said it can take further enforcement steps including interim measures and non-compliance decisions, if it deems such a step necessary, or accept commitments made by Meta to remedy issues raised in the proceedings.

It hasn’t set a legal deadline for bringing the formal proceedings to an end.

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