Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 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 European Union’s executive body – with a wide-ranging investigation into its compliance with strict EU rules on internet content.

The commission said it was investigating Meta over concerns that the company had not done enough to ensure an effective fight against disinformation ahead of the upcoming European Parliament elections.

The European Parliament elections are to be held on June 6-9.

The commission’s statement on Tuesday said it suspects Meta is not complying with DSA (Digital Services Act) obligations to tackle fraudulent advertising, disinformation campaigns and coordinated inauthentic behavior in the EU.

The commission also said Meta may have violated the DSA by downgrading political content on Instagram and Facebook’s recommendation systems, which it said may have violated transparency requirements.

“We have a well-established process to identify and mitigate risks on our platforms,” ​​a Meta spokesperson told CNBC via email.

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

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

It said Meta is in the process of amortizing 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 argues that CrowdTangle is an ineffective election monitoring tool because it lacks sufficient publicly available data. The company is building new tools into its systems to provide access to more comprehensive data from its platforms.

A potentially large fine

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

The DSA, which came into effect on February 17, 2024, requires internet giants to provide users with information about why they are being recommended certain websites or other details, and the ability to opt out.

Ads on these platforms must also include a label on who paid for them.

The rules also include provisions to ensure that platforms reduce the risks of electoral disinformation and manipulation.

Last week, the commission conducted a “stress test” to test the platforms’ readiness to deal with manipulative behavior in the run-up to the election.

The regulator said it had “identified gaps and areas for improvement” and identified ways to improve and strengthen cooperation between stakeholders.

Meta qualifies as a very large online platform (VLOP) under the EU’s DSA law, meaning it faces tighter scrutiny from regulators and potentially bigger fines if it deviates from the region’s rules.

Failure to comply with the rules can result in fines of up to 6% of a firm’s global turnover and may ultimately lead to a temporary ban on operations in the region.

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

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

It has not set a legal deadline for the completion of the official proceedings.