EU elections: how are social media sites dealing with the threat of misinformation and hate speech?

With the European elections taking place this month, social media sites, including Facebook, claim to be stepping up their efforts to tackle the issue of online misinformation.

Since political groups successfully influenced the 2016 US presidential elections on social media, Facebook, in particular, has invested millions in new technology, staff, and campaigns.

It’s employed content moderators and implemented marketing campaigns, designed to reduce the risk of political attacks and educate voters and policymakers about the potential threats.

At the moment, a team of Facebook staff is trying to remove as much illegal content as they can prior to the elections, in a bid to stop political groups spreading false information.

Last year, the European Commission set out a voluntary code of conduct to try and tackle this issue and protect democracy. A number of giants agreed to the proposals including Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

However, the Commission also criticised these companies for their lack of effort. It was estimated last year that there were still 116 million fake Facebook accounts dedicated to political campaigns.

And Facebook itself has admitted that it’s struggling to keep on top of new threats. There are a number of political groups in Europe managing to bypass the rules and buy social media ads on the platform.

This includes several far-right groups including Germany’s Alternative for Germany and France’s National Rally.

Facebook has recently banned a number of high-profile figures, including members of the far right and Islamic extremists

There are teams monitoring content on Facebook. They determine if the content is against the site’s policies, and them either delete or play down the content, or leave it on the network, depending on the nature of the content.

Among the filtered content is anything that includes misinformation, hate speech, and voter suppression.

Richard Allan, Facebook’s chief lobbyist in Europe noted in a statement: “We recognize that some people think we should remove everything. But we have concerns of removing everything during a political election. We don’t believe it’s the right place to be for us to be the regulator of political campaigns.”

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