European Union commissioners have accused three tech giants of providing “too little information” in reports on their efforts to fight disinformation ahead of European Parliament elections this summer.
They said in a statement yesterday that Facebook, Google and Twitter have all failed to provide the EU with enough data on the results of actions they had taken to tackle disinformation on their platforms, despite signing up to the EU’s code of practice against disinformation last year.
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The three tech giants signed the code in October and agreed to provide monthly reports on what actions they were taking against disinformation in Europe between January and May of this year. European Parliament elections are to be held in May.
The code commits the platforms to disrupting the advertising revenue flowing into accounts that peddle disinformation, make political advertising more transparent, shut down fake accounts and give prime space to reliable sources of information.
The European Commission asked for information on political advertising transparency, “the scrutiny of ad placement”, data on fake account closures and “marking systems” for so-called “bot” accounts to be provided in the monthly reports.
In a joint statement, four EU commissioners said they needed to see “more progress on the commitments made by online platforms to fight disinformation”, adding that the tech giants had not provided the Commission with “enough details showing that new policies and tools are being deployed in a timely manner and with sufficient resources” across member states.
The statement continued: “The reports provide too little information on the actual results of the measures already taken.
“Finally, the platforms have failed to identify specific benchmarks that would enable the tracking and measurement of progress in the EU.
“The quality of the information provided varies from one signatory of the Code to another depending on the commitment areas covered by each report. This clearly shows that there is room for improvement for all signatories.”
The EU commissioners pushed Facebook, Google and Twitter to “accelerate their efforts” before European Parliament election campaigns begin this month.
They also called on the platforms to “strengthen their cooperation with fact-checkers and academic researchers to detect disinformation campaigns” and improve the visibility of fact-checked content.
Outlining its views on the first reports, the Commission said Facebook had not provided data on the number of fake accounts it shut down over “malicious activities” targeting the EU.
Commissioners Sir Julian King and Mariya Gabriel also told The Guardian that Facebook had not provided data on efforts to block advertising revenue going to those behind disinformation.
Writing about Google, the Commission said it had supplied details of its moves to further scrutinise adverts in the EU but complained that the metrics it offered were “not specific enough” and did not “clarify the extent to which the actions were taken to address disinformation or for other reasons”.
Twitter did not provide metrics for its efforts to improve ad scrutiny in their first report to the EU, the Commission said.
Responding to the Commissioners’ statement, a Twitter spokesperson said: “Our reports will continue to highlight our efforts to ensure security, integrity, and transparency in the lead-up to the EU elections in May.
“We look forward to detailing in our next report new rules on political campaign ads transparency, which we announced last week.”
Press Gazette has contacted Facebook and Google for a response to the EU statement on their January reports.