Brussels steps up fake news commitments, platforms stick to

The European Commission has welcomed the adoption of an expanded code of conduct to combat disinformation online. 34 tech companies and civil society representatives joined, including Meta, Google, Twitter, TikTok, Microsoft, Clubhouse, Twitch and Vimeo.

Remove financial incentives

“Online platforms need to take much more drastic action, especially with regard to the financial implications. No one should be able to get a single euro by spreading disinformation,” said Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton.

This new text reinforces the commitments present in the first code of 2018. It also proposes new ones in response to the evaluation by the European Commission of the first implementation of this text. This expands participation in the sense that it no longer concerns only large platforms, but a range of participants that can help limit the spread of disinformation. Affiliates must ensure that financial incentives for the spread of false information are removed, ensuring that vendors cannot generate advertising revenue.

Tools need to be developed to help users recognize, understand and report misinformation. Platforms also need to have “fact checkers” that can work in multiple languages. They should receive “just remuneration”. Greater support should be given to researchers by giving them better access to data.

The scope of the code has been extended to include new types of manipulative behavior such as creating fake accounts, using bots, and highly sophisticated video tricks such as deepfakes. The new code also provides for the creation of a transparency center and a task force to update the text.

Six months to fulfill obligations

The 34 signatories now have six months to fulfill these obligations. From 2023, they will have to submit their first implementation reports to the European Commission. It remains to be seen what social networks will do in practice to combat the spread of false information. Many take pride in acting without necessarily having many results in practice.

Important clarification: This enhanced code is intended to be recognized as a code of conduct under the Digital Services Act (DSA), which has been signed by the Council and the European Parliament. In other words, very large platforms benefit from anticipation of the commitments contained in this text.

These changes are part of a specific context – Covid-19 and then Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It is in this context that the 27 European digital ministers signed a joint declaration in March last year calling on the major platforms to step up their response in the context of the war in Ukraine.

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