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Europe wants social media platforms to do more to stop disinformation: NPR

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The European Commission is calling on Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to provide more details on what their platforms are doing to curb disinformation. Jenny Kane / AP hide caption

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Jenny Kane / AP

The European Commission is calling on Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to provide more details on what their platforms are doing to curb disinformation.

Jenny Kane / AP

The European Commission wants to hold Facebook, Google, TikTok and Twitter accountable for the disinformation spread on their platforms. Under the proposed rules released on Wednesday, the European Commission is calling on tech companies to do more to tackle disinformation online and to show evidence that they have taken action.

The guideline, released on Wednesday, urges platforms and gamers in online advertising to block accounts that share disinformation and ban those who regularly post exposed content. The Commission also wants social media sites to improve the transparency of political ads, including by properly flagging paid content and allowing users to see who is serving those ads.

“The threats of disinformation on the Internet are evolving rapidly and we need to step up our joint efforts to empower citizens and protect the democratic information space,” said Věra Jourová, European Commission Vice-President for Values ​​and Transparency, in a statement.

The Commission’s proposals, presented on Wednesday, aim to strengthen its Code of Conduct on Disinformation, a voluntary pact signed by the world’s largest social media companies in 2018. At the time, the signatories included Facebook, Google, Twitter and Mozilla as well as trade associations, online platforms, the advertising industry and advertisers.

“A new, stronger code is needed as we need online platforms and other actors to address the systemic risks of their services and algorithmic reinforcements, to stop monitoring ourselves and stop making money from disinformation, while fully respecting freedom of expression stays, “said Jourová. called.

The proposals announced on Wednesday still have to be finalized and coordinated with the social media companies and other stakeholders.

If approved later this year, they would be the strongest move so far by any government agency or country to educate the largest social media sites on how to use algorithms to fill social media feeds and how disinformation takes hold on these sites.

Conspiracy theories about electoral fraud and the COVID-19 pandemic are often the subject of disinformation on social media. Facebook and Twitter have implemented tools to better contain disinformation, but falsehoods still spread largely uncontrollably.

An NPR analysis found that articles linking vaccines and death were often among the top online content articles this year. Enforcement gaps also often leave certain users, especially those who speak Spanish, vulnerable to disinformation.

The voluntary pact has reportedly done little to hold platforms accountable since 2018. A report by the European Court of Auditors is expected next week that the current code of conduct on disinformation does not hold platforms responsible for spreading disinformation, according to Politico Europe.

Representatives from Google and Twitter indicated their willingness to work on the Commission’s guidelines to curb the spread of disinformation.

In a statement to NPR, a Google spokesperson said the company welcomed the publication of the Commission’s guidelines and that the platform supports the goals of reducing the spread of harmful disinformation.

“We will study these guidelines carefully to understand how best to interpret them for our various products and services,” the spokesman said in a statement. “The global pandemic has shown that people need accurate information more than ever and we remain committed to making the Code of Conduct a success.”

Sinéad McSweeney, Twitter’s EMEA vice president for public order, told NPR that the social media giant “supports an inclusive approach that takes a broader look at the information ecosystem to address the challenges of disinformation.”

McSweeney said she agreed that users “should have a choice about which key algorithms affect their online experience”.

She added that Twitter looks forward to working with the Commission on the Disinformation Guidelines: “Regional co-regulatory standards are a critical element in maintaining the open internet to ensure that platforms of all sizes can operate confidently according to agreed standards.”

The European Commission is currently developing stricter legislative proposals targeting harmful online content.

The updated Code of Conduct is a forerunner to the European Commission’s Digital Services Act – a series of separate legislative proposals. Tech companies could face fines of up to 6% of annual sales for failing to work to stop the distribution of harmful content or the sale of illegal goods.

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