A “massive anti-vaccination campaign” has been cited by the European Commission as a reason for social media platforms to step up their fact-checking and revise internal algorithms that can amplify disinformation.
As part of a revised code of best practice proposed by Brussels, companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter are expected to show why particular material is being disseminated and prove that false information is being blocked.
The code would be voluntary but will work alongside an upcoming digital services law, under which companies could be fined up to 6% of their annual revenue for failing to remove illegal content where harm can be proven. Messaging services such as WhatsApp could also be covered by the code.
Social media companies that sign up will be better able to show they are dealing with lies online and avoid financial penalties.
European Commission vice-president Věra Jourová said details of how the code will work will be discussed with signatories, with the intention that it will enter into force in 2022.
She said: “We are seeing a very massive anti-vaccination campaign, which can really hamper our efforts to get people vaccinated and get rid of Covid.
“We are also seeing the impact not only on individuals but also on our democratic systems on our elections, because the combination of micro-targeting technique and good design is something that can win elections and that. is what we don’t want to see. in Europe. “
Jourová, a former minister from the Czech Republic, said the committee did not want to hamper freedom of expression, but that the platforms needed to be more effective by verifying the facts through independent operators.
In light of Twitter’s decision in January to block Donald Trump from using his platform, Jourová said the commission seeks to distinguish between fact and opinion, the latter not being the job. of the police commission.
“We would like them to build factchecking into the system so that it is a systemic action, that the factchecking is more intense and therefore that also ensures that the platforms themselves are not the ones that will decide. She said. “We had a lot of discussions in light of what we saw in the United States where the platforms have already reacted, for example on President Trump’s tweets and so on.
“I lived in a communist Czechoslovakia and I remember well the functioning and the very bad impact on them, on society, of the Soviet Ministry of Information. This is not what we want to introduce in Europe. “
Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and TikTok signed up to the previous code of conduct established in 2018, but it was widely seen as a failure in its goal of demonetizing disinformation.
“New stronger code is needed because we need online platforms and other players to deal with the systemic risks of their services and algorithmic amplification, to stop controlling themselves and stop allowing winning. money through disinformation, while fully preserving freedom of expression, ”Jourová mentioned.