Tech companies operating some of the world’s biggest online platforms, including Meta, Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Twitch and Facebook-owner TikTok, have signed a new EU regulation to tackle online misinformation.
These companies and others will need to do more to stop the spread of false information and propaganda on their platforms, as well as to share more accurate data about their work with EU member states. Announcing its new “Code of Practice on Disinformation”, the European Commission said the guidelines had been shaped in particular by “the lessons learned from the COVID19 crisis and Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine”.
“This new anti-disinformation code comes at a time when Russia is weaponizing disinformation as part of its military aggression against Ukraine, but also when we are witnessing attacks on democracy more broadly,” the vice president said. of the Commission for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, in a press release.
The code itself contains 44 specific “commitments” for companies that target a range of potential misinformation harms. These include commitments to:
- create searchable libraries for political ads
- demonetize fake news sites by removing ad revenue
- reduce the number of botnets and fake accounts used to spread misinformation
- give users more tools to report misinformation and access “authoritative sources”
- give researchers “better and wider access to platform data”
- work closely with independent fact checkers to verify information
Many U.S. tech companies like Facebook and Twitter have already adopted similar initiatives following pressure from politicians and regulators, but the EU says its new code of practice will allow for greater oversight of such operations.
Despite the scope of the anti-misinformation code, there are some notable absences. For example, Apple is not a signatory, despite its booming advertising business and the code’s focus on demonetizing sources of misinformation by removing ads. Other major platforms, like Telegram (which was a major propaganda battleground after the Russian invasion of Ukraine), are also absent.
Although the guidelines’ predecessor, the 2018 Disinformation Code of Practice, was entirely voluntary, the EU notes that this new regulation will be enforced by its new Digital Services Act, or DSA.
“To be credible, the new code of good practice will be supported by the DSA, including for heavy dissuasive sanctions”, declared the European commissioner in charge of the internal market, Thierry Breton, in a press release. “Very large platforms that repeatedly violate the Code and fail to apply risk mitigation measures correctly risk fines of up to 6% of their global revenue.”