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Fight against fake online news must be stepped up, EU warns Facebook, Twitter

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Fight against fake online news must be stepped up, EU warns Facebook, Twitter

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(BRUSSELS) - Signatories to an EU code of practice including Facebook, Google and Twitter have shown patchy progress in the fight against online disinformation, says a new report published Tuesday by the EU.

The European Commission has published the first annual self-assessment reports by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Twitter and 7 European trade associations under the Code of Practice on Disinformation. The reports by the signatories of the Code set out the progress made over the past year in the fight against online disinformation. The self-regulatory Code of Practice was launched in October 2018.

In a joint statement from Commissioners, the EU commended the commitment of the online platforms to become more transparent about their policies and to establish closer cooperation with researchers, fact-checkers and Member States.

 

However, they added that "progress varies a lot between signatories and the reports provide little insight on the actual impact of the self-regulatory measures taken over the past year as well as mechanisms for independent scrutiny."

"The 2019 European Parliament elections in May were clearly not free from disinformation,", says the Commission, with "the actions and the monthly reporting ahead of the elections contributed to limiting the space for interference and improving the integrity of services, to disrupting economic incentives for disinformation, and to ensuring greater transparency of political and issue-based advertising."

This is not the "new normal", adds the EU executive, and "large-scale automated propaganda and disinformation persist and there is more work to be done under all areas of the Code."

While the efforts of online platforms and fact-checkers can reduce harmful virality through platforms' services, it says there is an urgent need for online platforms to establish a meaningful cooperation with a wider range of trusted and independent organisations. Access to data provided so far still does not correspond to the needs of independent researchers.

So despite the commitments made by all signatories, "we regret that no additional platforms or corporate actors from the advertising sector have subscribed to the Code."

Main findings from the self-assessment reports

  • Compared to October 2018, the signatories to the Code of Practice indicate improved transparency. There is a closer dialogue with platforms as regards their policies against disinformation.
  • While progress has been reported on the commitments monitored by the Commission from January to May ahead of the 2019 European Parliament elections, less is reported on the implementation of the commitments to empower consumers and the research community. The provision of data and search tools is still episodic and arbitrary and does not respond to the needs of researchers for independent scrutiny.
  • The scope of actions undertaken by each platform to implement their commitments vary significantly. Similarly, differences in implementation of platform policy, cooperation with stakeholders and sensitivity to electoral contexts persist across Member States.
  • The reports provide information on policies implementing the Code, including EU-specific metrics. The consistency and level of detail varies. The metrics provided are mainly output indicators, e.g. number of accounts taken down.

The Commission is due to present a comprehensive assessment in early 2020. Should it deem the results under the Code unsatisfactory, it could propose further measures, including of regulatory measures.

Self-assessments and analytical note

Factsheet: Action Plan against Disinformation - Report on Progress

Code of Practice against disinformation - background information

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