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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

EU calls on internet giants to further fight disinformation

A monthly report on the measures taken against false information will now be requested from Facebook, Twitter and Google, the Commission Vice-President responsible for values and transparency announced on Wednesday.

The European Union has called on Internet giants to do more to fight the “huge wave of disinformation” caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Brussels also supported Twitter in its battle against Donald Trump.

The EU will ask these platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.) to publish a monthly report on the actions taken to combat disinformation linked to Covid-19, announced the Vice-President of the Commission responsible for values. and transparency, Vera Jourova. She spoke at a press conference with the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell.

Vera Jourova “praised” the steps already taken by internet giants, but said they “should do more”, presenting a plan to fight disinformation. Platform reports should focus on the nature of the disinformation, the size of the network involved, its geopolitical background and the target audience, she said. The approach is based on the goodwill of the platforms, but it is in their interest to arouse “user confidence”.

Advertising for fake medicines
The pandemic has already led the EU to ask platforms to put forward information from health authorities like the WHO, and to withdraw advertisements for fake medicines in particular. Google has blocked or removed more than 80 million ads linked to the coronavirus, said Vera Jourova, who also welcomed in April the initiatives announced by Facebook and Twitter to try to curb the contagion of Firefox.

In 2018, these internet giants pledged, as part of a “code of good practice” launched by the European executive, to act against the dissemination of false information. A code that the social network TikTok, whose popularity has exploded with containment, will soon join, announced Vera Jourova.

Google Europe chief Matt Brittin has reaffirmed the US giant’s commitment to the code and “working together to find new creative ways to continue the fight against disinformation.”

Open conflict
The Czech commissioner praised the attitude of Twitter, in open conflict with the American president, a big user of the social network. Twitter has posted “check the facts” warnings on several Donald Trump messages and masked another on the Minneapolis clashes to signal an “apology for violence.”

An attitude distinct from that of Facebook which decided not to report or censor in any way whatsoever the messages of the American president. “I support Twitter’s reaction to President Trump’s tweets,” said Vera Jourova, noting that the messages in question had not been deleted. The social network has “provided verified information”. “This is what I call pluralism,” she said. “We politicians should especially accept this confrontation,” she said.

The measures presented Wednesday are in line with the perspective of the “Action Plan for European Democracy” and the “Digital Services Act”, intended to better regulate the tech giants, which are to be presented at the end of the year by the European executive.

“Toxic for health”

In its report, the EU notably accuses Russia and China of having carried out disinformation campaigns in the EU and around the world. “The pandemic has shown us that disinformation does not only harm our democracies, it also harms the health of our citizens,” said Vera Jourova.

“We do not have the power to stop it, we have the power to give citizens an alternative, a check, to compare what is said with reality,” said Josep Borrell.

In the fight against disinformation, the Commission intends to promote research and fact-checking activities, in particular through the new European Observatory for digital media.

This, operational since the beginning of the month, is managed by the European University Institute in Florence (Italy) and brings together the Athens Technology Center, the University of Aarhus (Denmark) and the faction organization. checking Italian Pagella Politica.

The Commission will launch “a € 9 million tender for research centers in different member states” this month to spark “competition for free speech”, said Vera Jourova.

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