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Online platforms profiting from fake news, says EU

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Online platforms profiting from fake news, says EU

Vera Jourova - Photo EC

(BRUSSELS) - The EU's code of practice on disinformation needs to be strengthened to become more effective in countering disinformation, the European Commission said in new guidance published on Wednesday.

"A new stronger Code is necessary as we need online platforms and other players to address the systemic risks of their services and algorithmic amplification, stop policing themselves alone and stop allowing to make money on disinformation, while fully preserving the freedom of speech," said EC vice-president Vera Jourova.

The new guidelines call for stronger commitments by the signatories and foresees a broader participation to the Code. Based on a robust monitoring framework and clear performance indicators, the EU executive says signatories should reduce financial incentives to disinformation, empower users to take an active role in preventing its spread, better cooperate with fact-checkers across EU Member States and languages, and provide a framework for access to data for researchers.

The Guidance calls for reinforcing the Code by strengthening it in the following areas:

  • Larger participation with tailored commitments. The Commission encourages established and emerging platforms active in the EU, relevant stakeholders in the online advertising ecosystem (e.g. ad exchanges, ad-tech providers, brands benefitting from ads), private messaging services, as well as stakeholders that can contribute with resources or expertise to the Code's effective functioning, to join the Code. The strengthened Code should include new tailored commitments corresponding to the size and nature of services provided by signatories.
  • Demonetise disinformation. Platforms and players in the online advertising ecosystem must take responsibility and better work together to defund disinformation, notably by exchanging information on disinformation ads refused by one of the signatories, improving transparency and accountability around ad placements and barring participation by actors that systematically post debunked content.
  • Ensure the integrity of services. The strengthened Code should provide a comprehensive coverage of the current and emerging forms of manipulative behaviour used to spread disinformation (such as bots, fake accounts, organised manipulation campaigns, account takeovers), and include tailored commitments to ensure transparency and accountability of measures taken to reduce its impact.
  • Empower users to understand and flag disinformation. Users need to have access to tools to better understand and safely navigate the online environment. The signatories must make their recommender systems, i.e. the way users see content, transparent and take measures to mitigate the risks that these fuel such as the viral spread of disinformation. They should also provide their users with accessible, effective tools and procedures to flag disinformation with the potential to cause public or individual harm. Users, whose content or accounts have been subject to measures taken in response to such flagging, should have access to an appropriate and transparent mechanism to appeal and seek redress. The strengthened code should also enhance the visibility of reliable information of public interest, and warn users who interacted with content marked as false by fact-checkers.
  • Increase the coverage of fact-checking and providing increased access to data to researchers. The new Code should include better cooperation with fact-checkers and increase coverage across EU countries and languages. The strengthened Code should also include a robust framework for access to data for researchers.
  • A robust monitoring framework. The strengthened Code should include an improved monitoring framework based on clear key performance indicators (KPIs) measuring the results and impact of actions taken by the platforms as well as the overall impact of the Code on disinformation in the EU. Platforms should regularly report on the measures taken and their relevant KPIs to the Commission. Information and data should be provided by the platforms in standardised formats, with Member State breakdowns.

Finally, the Commission says signatories should develop a 'Transparency Centre' where they indicate which policies they adopted to implement the Code's commitments, how they have been enforced, and display all the data and metrics relevant to the KPIs. The Guidance also proposes the establishment of a permanent task force chaired by the Commission. It would be composed of signatories, representatives from the European External Action Service, the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA) and from the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) that received more than €11 million to create eight regional hubs to help implement and expand its work in the Member States. The task force, which will rely also on the support of experts, will help review and adapt the Code in view of technological, societal, market and legislative developments.

Guidance to strengthen the Code of Practice on 
Disinformation - background guide

Commission Factpage

Commission Guidance on Strengthening the Code of Practice on Disinformation


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