Meta, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and other tech companies and publishers have agreed to fight disinformation online in accordance with the European Commission’s latest Code of Practice rules, which were published on Thursday.
The code [PDF] lists a broad set of commitments that signatories can choose to adhere to in the fight against digital fakery. Among the options are taking steps to demonetize disinformation; businesses should avoid placing ads next to fake news or profiting off the spread of false information online; and clearly labeling political advertisements.
Other concerns include making data from social media platforms more transparent and available for researchers and supporting the work of fact checkers. The EU updated these guidelines to tackle the rise of fake bots accounts and AI-generated deepfakes too. Signatories promise to outline their internal policies for dealing with manipulated content, and have to show their algorithms used for detecting and moderating deepfakes are trustworthy.
Věra Jourová, the EU’s vice president for values and transparency, said in a statement: “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. We now have very significant commitments to reduce the impact of disinformation online and much more robust tools to measure how these are implemented across the EU in all countries and in all its languages.”
33 entities have signed up to the latest version of the Code of Practice. Social media platforms, software vendors, media companies, and advertising industry organisations are among the signatories.
Although the Code of Practice is voluntary, parts of it are backed up by the Digital Services Act (DSA). Thierry Breton, the commissioner for the Internal Market, warned large companies could be sanctioned up to 6 per cent of their annual revenues if they breach the upcoming new laws.
“Disinformation is a form of invasion of our digital space, with tangible impact on our daily lives…Spreading disinformation should not bring a single euro to anyone. 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 [per cent] of their global turnover,” he said.
Signatories will have six months to implement measures outlined in the Code of Practice. They will be expected to provide a detailed report to the EU Commission at the start of 2023 detailing the actions taken to uphold their commitments. ®