Eight new supporters want to follow the code of conduct initiated by the EU Commission three years ago to combat disinformation and, for example, take stronger action against fake news about the coronavirus pandemic and vaccinations against Covid-19. This was announced by the Brussels government institution on Friday. The future signatories include the video platform Vimeo and the talk app Clubhouse.
No forum for misleading content
Previously, operators of large social networks and search engines such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, TikTok and Twitter had signed the code. In 2020, the commission issued the slogan that the infodemic that was rampant in parallel to the Covid 19 pandemic must also be addressed in this context: reliable sources in the health sector should be promoted, false or misleading content should not be offered a forum, and illegal messages should be removed.
With DoubleVerify, another provider of advertising technology (“Ad Tech”) and organizations that provide special expertise and technical solutions to combat disinformation have now joined the self-regulation initiative. These include Avaaz, Globsec, Logically, NewsGuard and WhoTargetsMe.
“Curb the flood of harmful disinformation”
The Commission wants to significantly tighten and expand the code. According to her, recent election campaigns and reports from previous signatories have shown that “significant additional efforts are required” “to stem the tide of harmful disinformation.” The current agreement was a good first step in this direction. However, “significant inadequacies” such as the lack of a suitable monitoring mechanism, central performance indicators and rules for access to data for researchers as well as “limited participation”, particularly from the advertising industry, would have to be addressed.
Věra Jourová, Vice-President of the Commission for Values and Transparency, was happy about the newcomers. At the same time, she encouraged other platforms, messaging services and players from the ad tech industry to “join the code as soon as possible”. With its guidelines from May, the Commission had high expectations for the expansion of the agreement. The Czech warned: “Online actors have a special responsibility with regard to the dissemination and commercialization of disinformation. Corresponding services must be made more transparent, responsible and secure from the ground up.”
Imposing costs on perpetrators, withdrawing revenue from platforms
According to the executive body, instruments are particularly needed “which enable the perpetrators to be charged with costs”. Above all, she has an eye on not placing advertising on questionable platforms in order to withdraw this income. According to the revised guidelines, platforms and representatives of the online advertising system should take on more responsibility and work better together to prevent the financing of disinformation. At the same time, the EU committees are working on overarching legal requirements for portals and networks with the Digital Services Act (DSA).
Also on Friday, the Commission published reports from Google, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Microsoft on the measures which the corporations took in the EU countries in July and August to contain Covid-19 disinformation. Facebook alone removed over 270,000 posts from its own network and from its subsidiary Instagram that violated the relevant guidelines in the two summer months.
New highs reached for blockages
Google reported that it had taken action against 16,479 URLs in its in-house advertising program, AdSense, in July and August. This was 1584 addresses more than in June, with the largest increase with over 1000 URLs being in France. The number of banners and ad accounts that were rejected for violating Covid-19 advertising policies remained roughly the same.
The Microsoft report shows that in July the number of ads blocked by the group for users in the EU about the pandemic fell sharply by over 50 percent to 286,485 compared to June. In August, however, the trend was completely reversed: Then a good 5.4 million ads were blocked for violating Microsoft advertising guidelines, the highest value since the start of the European program to control Covid-19 disinformation.