The European Union’s fight against misinformation is yielding fruit as the biggest tech companies in the world have agreed to join in the campaign.
Meta (owner of Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram), Twitter, Google, Microsoft, TikTok, Twitch, and other companies have allied with the EU to fight the menace of online misinformation. They all became signatories to a new EU rulebook addressing the issue.
They have agreed to increase their effort in curtailing the spread of fake news and propaganda on the respective platforms that they control. The agreement also means they will share more data with EU member countries.
The new set of rules is known as the “Code of Practice on disinformation,” and it is said to be inspired by lessons learned during the Covid 19 pandemic and the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a press statement, the EU’s VP for values and transparency, Vera Jourova, said, “This new anti-disinformation Code comes at a time when Russia is weaponising disinformation as part of its military aggression against Ukraine, but also when we see attacks on democracy more broadly.”
All the tech companies that have become parties to the Code are now committed to:
- Archive political adverts and make them searchable
- pulling advertising from fake news websites so that they don’t get access to funding
- cut down the number of bot networks and fake accounts used by bad actors to spread disinformation
- empower the users of their platforms to be able to flag disinformation and access “authoritative sources”
- allow researchers “better and wider access to platforms’ data”
- partner with independent fact-checkers to confirm information sources
However, companies like Facebook and Twitter have already incorporated similar codes and policies as a result of mounting pressure from politics and regulators. But the EU believes the Code it just released would allow for better enforcement.
Meanwhile, there are some notable companies missing from the list of companies signing up with the EU. A conspicuous example is Apple, despite being the largest company by market cap and running a massive advertising business, which would make the company clash with the EU on the issue of demonetizing fake news websites.
Telegram is another absentee despite being one of the most used communication platforms and has been host to countless propaganda wars.
However, the new “Code of Practice on misinformation” is not optional, unlike its predecessor, the 2018 Code of Practice on Disinformation. The new rulebook will be enforced under the new Digital Services Act (DSA).
Thierry Breton, EU’s commissioner for the internal market, said, “To be credible, the new Code of Practice will be backed up by the DSA — including for heavy dissuasive sanctions. Very large platforms that repeatedly break the Code and do not carry out risk mitigation measures properly risk fines of up to 6% of their global turnover.”