Yesterday’s reports cover measures taken by online platforms in February 2019 may put ourselves at ease when the EU shall keep controlling the social media as well as the working of the political parties and funding thereoff. These reports allow the EU Commission to verify that effective policies to ensure the integrity of electoral processes are in place before the European elections in May 2019.
The EU has to make sure she does not become ill in the same basket as the United States of America and Russia. The Commission may not only hope to see further progress in a number of areas by each of the platforms, she has to keep control over them. Naturally it shall take time to do so and therefore we want to be patient to see what the result may be by the end of 2019, when the Commission will carry out a comprehensive assessment of the Code’s initial 12-month period. Should the results prove unsatisfactory, the Commission may propose further actions, including of a regulatory nature.
The monthly reporting cycle builds on the Code of Practice, and is part of the Action Plan against disinformation that the European Union adopted last December to build up capabilities and strengthen cooperation between Member States and EU institutions to proactively address the threats posed by disinformation.
The reporting signatories committed to the Code of Practice in October 2018 on a voluntary basis. In January 2019 the European Commission published the first reports submitted by signatories of the Code of Practice against disinformation. The Code aims to reach the objectives set out by the Commission’s Communication presented in April 2018 by setting a wide range of commitments:
- – Disrupt advertising revenue for accounts and websites misrepresenting information and provide advertisers with adequate safety tools and information about websites purveying disinformation.
- – Enable public disclosure of political advertising and make effort towards disclosing issue-based advertising.
- – Have a clear and publicly available policy on identity and online bots and take measures to close fake accounts.
- – Offer information and tools to help people make informed decisions, and facilitate access to diverse perspectives about topics of public interest, while giving prominence to reliable sources.
- – Provide privacy-compliant access to data to researchers to track and better understand the spread and impact of disinformation.
Ahead of the European elections in May 2019, the Commission is monitoring the progress of the platforms towards meeting the commitments that are most relevant and urgent ahead of the election campaign: scrutiny of ad placements; political and issue-based advertising; and integrity of services.
The Code of Practice also goes hand-in-hand with the Recommendation included in the election package announced by President Juncker in the 2018 State of the Union Address to ensure free, fair and secure European Parliament elections. The measures include greater transparency in online political advertisements and the possibility to impose sanctions for the illegal use of personal data to deliberately influence the outcome of the European elections. Member States were also advised to set up a national election cooperation network of relevant authorities – such aselectoral, cybersecurity, data protection and law enforcement authorities – and to appoint a contact point to participate in a European-level election cooperation network.
The first meeting at the European level took place on 21 January 2019, and a second one on 27 February. The next meeting will take place on 4 April.
Last week, Commissioner Jourová wrote to national political parties calling on them to ensure transparency of political advertising, to be ready to face cyberattacks and to respect European data protection rules during the campaign.