Combating misinformation: Facebook, Twitter and EC put forward their road map

Threatened by the European Commission as to the imposition of new rules to intensify the fight against online misinformation, the main social media platforms (Google, Facebook, Mozilla and Twitter) on Tuesday set out self-regulatory measures.

They did so with next May’s European election campaign in mind.

These measures include transparency tools to indicate the political nature of some advertisements, and training in Internet security for the European Parliament’s political groups and the authorities responsible for organizing the elections. Other strengthened cooperation with fact-checking organizations is also proposed.

The Net giants, as well as several European advertising platforms, have also signed a code of good practice by which they commit, in particular, to indicate whether the given content is advertising, to adopt a clear policy on the use and identification of “bots” (programmed to disseminate automatic messages), and not to accept payment on behalf of Web accounts and sites which systematically display misinformation. They have, in the same document, agreed not to promote such accounts and sites.

However, civil society representatives, journalists, fact checkers and academic specialists have repeated that “the code remains insufficient in its current wording.” These bodies have been urged by the European Commission to work upon the issue, alongside platforms and advertisers. They regret the absence of a common approach, significant commitments and measurable indicators.

The Commission, for its part, still reserves the right to formulate other proposals, indeed to create legislation around them. However, before reaching that point, it wishes to leave the possibility of self-regulation open to the sector. Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, in particular has stressed the commitment of signatories to work with the network of fact checkers and researchers that the Commission is in the process of creating. She commented, “This is only the beginning, we are evaluating the implementation of road maps before the end of the year, but we wish to have apparent and measurable results before the European elections.”

At the beginning of 2018, the Commission started to intensify its campaign against misinformation following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The incident involved the illegal collection of Facebook users’ data, during the election campaign of the US President, Donald Trump.

In anticipation of the European elections in May 2019, the European Executive wishes to redouble their efforts, after the alleged interference of Russia in the US presidential election in 2016 and in the Brexit vote the same year.

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