European elections: how the commission plans to deal with fake news online

In 2018, the European Commission set out a voluntary code of practice to tackle the issue of fake news and disinformation on the internet. This was part of a larger plan to protect European democracy, following concerns over how easy it is to spread false news on online platforms.

For instance, users on social media sites are able to purchase comments, likes, and followers very easily in order to spread their message. The issue was described at the time by EU commissioner for digital economy, Mariya Gabriel, as a “direct threat to the very foundations of our democratic society.”

After the introduction of the code of conduct, numerous internet giants signed up to the proposals, including Google, Twitter, and Facebook. However, a year later, the Commission is criticising these firms for what it sees as a lack of effort in the fight against fake news.

According to Security Commissioner King, the way the sites are applying the code is “patchy, opaque and self-selecting.” In a joint statement Commissioner King, along with Věra Jourová, Andrus Ansip and Mariya Gabriel, highlighted the need for progress to be sped up in a number of areas.

In the run up to the European elections, the transparency of political ads is a major concern. It’s estimated that there are still 116 million fake accounts on Facebook alone, and the Commission has called for more election integrity initiatives to deal with this problem.

In a statement, Commissioners note: “More systematic information is needed for the Commission to assess the efforts deployed by the online platforms to scrutinise the placement of ads and to better understand the effectiveness of the actions taken against bots and fake accounts,”

In addition to this, there should be improved access to “fact checking” content online. This can be used to validate news stories. The Commission also aims to get more companies to sign up to the code of conduct, and say it must operate across all member states for it to be successful.

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