Internet giants have not addressed ‘critical shortcomings’ in tackling Covid disinformation, report finds

Social media and internet giants have not addressed “critical shortcomings” in tackling disinformation, a new report has found.

ovidCheck, a new research report conducted by the Institute for Future Media, Democracy and Society (FuJo) at DCU, examined the implementation of the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation during the pandemic.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, TikTok and Twitter are all signatories to the self-regulatory Code and researchers said there was “difficulty in assessing the timeliness, completeness and impact of the actions” undertaken by the signatories.

The report, commissioned by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), recommends the development of robust procedures for reporting and monitoring online disinformation for the future.

The report sets out nine recommendations for more effective reporting and monitoring of disinformation, including the commitment to an independent auditor on how the companies are tackling disinformation, as well as tackling disinformation among user comments on social media platforms.

“The Code of Practice on Disinformation offers a means for signatories to provide transparency about their efforts to combat disinformation. Unfortunately, many critical shortcomings have not been addressed since the Code was adopted in 2018,” FuJo researcher, Dr Eileen Culloty said.

“This includes the lack of a standardised reporting system and a lack of clarity around whether user comments, which were often found to be a source of disinformation, fell under content removal policies.

“The role of AI in content moderation is another area that needs to be addressed. We hope the findings and recommendations of this report contribute to the strengthening of the Code, including the development of robust procedures for reporting and monitoring,” Dr Culloty said.

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The report recommends that reporting should be standardised to ensure necessary and relevant information is provided in a manner that facilitates monitoring and that they should provide clear definitions of relevant policies to combat disinformation.

Celene Craig, deputy chief executive of the BAI, said the CovidCheck report can have a valuable contribution in ensuring that companies signed up to the code implement it more efficiently moving forward.

“The importance of social media in our information ecosystem is continuing to grow and the need for increased oversight of, and accountability by, social media platforms is now accepted,” Ms Craig said, adding the work on a revised code is already underway.


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