Online disinformation: EU adopts new code of conduct for social media and platforms

Deprive sites disseminating infox from advertising, better cooperate with fact-checkers, ensure more transparency: digital platforms have pledged to strengthen their fight against disinformation, in a new European code of good practice presented on Thursday.

This revised version of the code launched in 2018of which AFP obtained a copy, was to be unveiled at a press conference on Thursday by the Commission’s vice-president in charge of transparency, Vera Jourova, and the European commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton.

It must be signed by a larger number of actors, around thirty in total: platforms and social networks such as Meta, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, TikTok, as well as advertising professionals who already participated in the previous code, joined this time by fact-checkers and NGOs like Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Avaaz, according to a European source.

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Up to 6% of global turnover fine

The signatories themselves took part in the drafting of the text, which contains some forty commitments – ie double the previous code – and indicators enabling compliance to be measured.

The previous code was based only on self-regulation, for results deemed insufficient by the Commission. This time, adherence to the code remains voluntary, but for “very large platforms” (reaching 45 million users in the EU), it meets the obligations set by the Digital Services Act (DSA).

The DSA, which is in the process of adoption, obliges these platforms to make efforts to “reduce risk” misinformation and provides for fines of up to 6% of their worldwide turnover.

“Plus one euro from disinformation”

One of the key commitments is to dry up disinformation revenue. “From Brexit to the Russian war in Ukraine, in recent years, well-known social networks have allowed disinformation and destabilization strategies to spread unchecked, and even profited financially”denounced Thierry Breton.

Read also: Russian disinformation: “It doesn’t matter if the fake is crude, as long as it captures attention”

“Platforms should no longer receive a single euro from the dissemination of disinformation”underlined the French commissioner.

In the code, platforms that do ad placement, like Google, pledge to avoid showing these ads near conspiratorial content and to verify the sites on which they appear. They also undertake to tackle advertisements containing fake news.

Signatories must provide users with tools to identify and react to false or misleading information, and cooperate more closely with fact-checkers, in all languages ​​of EU countries. They must also support the work of researchers on disinformation, by allowing them access to anonymized and aggregated data.

Unlike illegal content, it is not a question of removing infox – which would run counter to the principle of freedom of expression –, but of promoting reliable sources of information. The code mentions in particular the standard set up by the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI), on the initiative of RSF, and of which AFP is a partner.

fake accounts, bots”, and “deepfakes”

The platforms also undertake to be more transparent about political advertisements, clearly identifying them as such, and allowing the user to know why they are the recipient of them.

The signatories promise to better fight against fake accounts, the amplification of disinformation by “bots” – computer programs that automatically send messages -, identity theft and malicious “deepfakes”. The “deepfake”, or “hyperfaking”, is an artificial intelligence technology consisting in replacing one face with another. A task force will be responsible for evaluating the commitments made.

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Online disinformation: EU adopts new code of conduct for social media and platforms

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