Commission calls on signatories to intensify their efforts
The European Commission published today the first reports submitted by signatories of the Code of Practice against disinformation signed in October 2018. While the Commission welcomes the progress made, it also calls on signatories to intensify their efforts in the run up to the 2019 EU elections.
Today, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Mozilla and the trade associations representing the advertising sector have submitted their first reports on the measures they are taking to comply with the Code of Practice on Disinformation. There has been some progress, notably in removing fake accounts and limiting the visibility of sites that promote disinformation. However, additional action is needed to ensure full transparency of political ads by the start of the campaign for the European elections in all EU Member States, to allow appropriate access to platforms’ data for research purposes, and to ensure proper cooperation between the platforms and individual Member States through contact points in the Rapid Alert System.
According to the reports which cover measures taken by 31 December 2018, online companies’ work is more advanced and comprehensive in some areas, for instance in taking down fake accounts and de-monetising the purveyors of disinformation, but less so in others. In particular, the reports show that:
Facebook has taken or is taking measures towards the implementation of all of the commitments but now needs to provide greater clarity on how the social network will deploy its consumer empowerment tools and boost cooperation with fact-checkers and the research community across the whole EU.
Google has taken steps to implement all its commitments, in particular those designed to improve the scrutiny of ad placements, transparency of political advertisement and providing users with information, tools and support to empower them in their online experience. However some tools are only available in a small number of Member States. The Commission also calls on the online search engine to support research actions on a wider scale.
Twitter has prioritised actions against malicious actors, closing fake or suspicious accounts and automated systems/bots. Still, more information is needed on how this will restrict persistent purveyors of disinformation from promoting their tweets.
Mozilla is about to launch an upgraded version of its browser to block cross-site tracking by default but the online browser should be more concrete on how this will limit the information revealed about users’ browsing activities, which could potentially be used for disinformation campaigns.
For the upcoming reports, the Commission expects Google, Facebook, Twitter and Mozilla to develop a more systematic approach to enable a proper and regular monitoring and assessment, on the basis of appropriate performance data.
When it comes to the trade associations representing the advertising sector (World Federation of Advertisers, European Association of Communication Agencies and Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe), the Commission notes their positive efforts to raise awareness about the Code, but also notes the absence of corporate signatories and stresses the key role brands and advertisers play in the efforts to demonetise purveyors of disinformation.
By the end of 2019, the Commission will carry out a comprehensive assessment at the end of the Code’s initial 12-month period. Should the results prove unsatisfactory, the Commission may propose further actions, including of a regulatory nature.