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Facebook not keeping to commitments on disinformation, says EU

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Facebook not keeping to commitments on disinformation, says EU

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(BRUSSELS) - Social media platform Facebook is not keeping to commitments it made on disinformation with regard to scrutiny of ad placements, the EU Commission said as it published progress reports from Facebook, Google and Twitter Thursday.

The three online platforms are signatories of the Code of Practice against disinformation and have committed to reporting monthly on their actions ahead of the European Parliament elections in May 2019.

More specifically, the Commission asked to receive detailed information to monitor progress on the scrutiny of ad placement, transparency of political advertising, closure of fake accounts and marking systems for automated bots.

In a statement, the Commission welcomed progress made by the online platforms that signed the Code of Practice in rolling out their policies to support the integrity of the upcoming European elections. This includes better scrutiny of advertisement placements, transparency tools for political advertising, and measures to identify and block inauthentic behaviour on their services.

However the EU executive says there needed to be more progress on the commitments made by online platforms to fight disinformation. "Platforms have not provided enough details showing that new policies and tools are being deployed in a timely manner and with sufficient resources across all EU Member States," says the statement, with the reports providing too little information on results of the measures taken.

"The platforms have failed to identify specific benchmarks that would enable the tracking and measurement of progress in the EU," the statement continues: "The quality of the information provided varies from one signatory of the Code to another depending on the commitment areas covered by each report. This clearly shows that there is room for improvement for all signatories."

Main outcomes of the signatories' reports:

  • Facebook has not reported on results of the activities undertaken in January with respect to scrutiny of ad placements. It had earlier announced that a pan-EU archive for political and issue advertising will be available in March 2019. The report provides an update on cases of interference from third countries in EU Member States, but does not report on the number of fake accounts removed due to malicious activities targeting specifically the European Union.
  • Google provided data on actions taken during January to improve scrutiny of ad placements in the EU, divided per Member State. However, the metrics supplied are not specific enough and do not clarify the extent to which the actions were taken to address disinformation or for other reasons (e.g. misleading advertising). Google published a new policy for 'election ads' on 29 January, and will start publishing a Political Ads Transparency Report as soon as advertisers begin to run such ads. Google has not provided evidence of concrete implementation of its policies on integrity of services for the month of January.
  • Twitter did not provide any metrics on its commitments to improve the scrutiny of ad placements. On political ads transparency, contrary to what was announced in the implementation report in January, Twitter postponed the decision until the February report. On integrity of services, Twitter added five new account sets, comprising numerous accounts in third countries, to its Archive of Potential Foreign Operations, which are publicly available and searchable, but did not report on metrics to measure progress.

The reports published today cover measures taken by online companies in January 2019. The next monthly report, covering the activities done in February, will be published in March 2019. This will allow the Commission to verify that effective policies to ensure integrity of the electoral processes are in place before the European elections in May 2019.

By the end of 2019, the Commission says it will carry out a comprehensive assessment of the Code's initial 12-month period. Should the results prove unsatisfactory, it may propose further actions, including of a regulatory nature.

Reports of the online platforms

Code of Practice on Disinformation


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