EU intensifies fight against disinformation


The plan was signed by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and in June 2020 by TikTok, as well as players in the advertising sector. — Dreamstime/TNS

BRUSSELS: The EU on Dec 3 announced plans to step up the fight against disinformation in Europe at a time when anti-vaccine content is spreading, fuelled by the coronavirus pandemic.

The European Commission also plans to regulate political advertising and to better protect journalists as part of its Democracy Action Plan.

“Disinformation is not a trivial thing... We are speaking about really dangerous attacks,” EU commission vice-president Vera Jourova told AFP.

The plan by the EU executive intends to strengthen its existing code of conduct against disinformation, which was launched in 2018.

It was signed by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and in June 2020 by TikTok, as well as players in the advertising sector.

But the EU believes self-regulation is no longer adequate and the new measures will coincide with the much-anticipated Digital Services Act, to be proposed by the commission on Dec 15.

The commission, which has already denounced campaigns allegedly launched by Russia and China linked to the pandemic, is seeking the power to impose financial penalties on foreign agents.

It also wants to have a role in helping member states coordinate their response to disinformation attacks by foreign actors.

The EU executive also wants more transparency from the platforms on the sources of disinformation, their algorithms and more access to data for researchers.

Campaign group Avaaz said the plan could be ground-breaking if the platforms are held accountable with clear objectives and oversight.

“Or it could remain an ineffective declaration of intent,” warned Avaaz campaign manager Luca Nicotra, if the platforms continue to report based on indicators they choose themselves.

The commission also said it would propose new legislation to regulate political advertising next year.

“We want the political advertising to be as transparent as possible, so that I, as a voter, know who is sending me this message, who pays for it, what’s the purpose,” Jourova said. – AFP

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