Yesterday the European Commission published the latest monthly reports from Google, Twitter, and Facebook, on the progress made in February towards meeting their commitments to fight disinformation.
The online platforms are all signatories of the Code of Practice against disinformation and have committed to report their progress in the run up to the European Parliament elections in May 2019. The publication of the monthly reports follows a meeting Tuesday afternoon between the Commission and the platforms to discuss the state of play.
Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, the Estonian Andrus Ansip, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová, Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King, and Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel said in a joint statement:
“Yesterday’s meeting and the reports published today show that online platforms are making progress. We had good discussions with them about how they can further improve the ongoing monthly reporting requested in the Action Plan against Disinformation. Such monthly progress is needed to ensure the transparency during the election campaign.
It might be a good signal the platforms have all confirmed that their tools for assessing the transparency of political ads will be operational in advance of the European elections in May.
This is a substantial achievement, especially in such a short time-frame, which will enhance the transparency of online paid political advertisements and ensure that voters will be reliably informed throughout the election period and beyond. We also welcome the fact that all three platforms are taking election integrity initiatives that go beyond the specific commitments set out in the Code of Practice.
However, we may not forget that further efforts are needed by all signatories in key areas and that 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.
The European commission encourage online platforms to work with researchers and fact-checkers on access to live information on public pages, streams and other services, as well as on data on inauthentic accounts they have identified and removed.
The EU commission takes note of the progress made by online platforms and urges them to step up their efforts. For them
access could help to obtain a comprehensive and independent picture of disinformation patterns and trends, and should be done in full respect of the General Data Protection Regulation.
They are fully aware that they need to make sure that the tools being developed by online platforms are available in all 28 EU Member States, not only in certain Member States.
Main outcomes of the reports:
- Google reported on actions to improve scrutiny of ad placements in the EU and provided further detail on its election ads transparency policy, including the specific verification requirements that advertisers must meet to run election ads. It confirmed that its EU Elections Ads Transparency Report will be introduced in April, covering all political adverts on the platform. Data was also provided on the removal of a significant number of YouTube channels for violation of its policies on spam, deceptive practices & scams and impersonation. Google needs to show further progress on the transparency of issue-based advertising and on abusive account creation as well as more detailed reporting on YouTube.
- Facebook reported on actions to improve the scrutiny of ad placements and highlighted a new policy on vaccine misinformation, as well as more information on their policy for issue-based advertising in the EU. Facebook confirmed its Ad Library will be launched in late March and will consist of a publicly searchable database for political and issue-based ads. The platform also reported that it had tackled three cases of coordinated inauthentic behaviour in February in Romania, the UK and Moldova. Facebook should provide more information on specific actions taken against breaches of its community standards (such as misrepresentation or inauthenticity).
- Twitter has expanded its political campaigning ads policy to cover the EU and started enforcing its policy on 11 March. This policy includes a certification process and ads covered by the policy will be viewable in Twitter’s Ad Transparency Centre. Twitter needs to show more progress on the scrutiny of ad placements, as well as report on actions to protect its services against malicious automated accounts, spam and other activities.