Insights European Commission consults on roadmap initiative to produce guidance on strengthening the Code of Practice on Disinformation


The Code of Practice on Disinformation is a voluntary code of practice to which various online platforms, such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, and other relevant stakeholders signed up to in September 2018. The aim is to limit the spread and impact of disinformation.

In June 2020, the Commission carried out an evaluation of the existing Code and of action taken by signatories to the Code to fight coronavirus-related disinformation. The assessment identified several shortcomings limiting the impact of the Code, including: (i) inconsistent and incomplete application of the Code’s commitments across platforms and Member States: (ii) a lack of uniform definitions; (iii) gaps in the scope of the Code; and (iv) lack of key performance indicators and of an independent oversight mechanism. Overall, to step up the fight against disinformation, the Code needs strengthening and monitoring.

The Commission intends to produce Guidance, in the form of a Communication, on strengthening the Code of Practice and has published a roadmap setting out what the Guidance will cover and how to achieve it.

The Guidance will set out how the signatories (platforms and other relevant stakeholders) should strengthen it and how implementation and impact of the Code should be monitored. The Guidance and the strengthened Code of Practice will be complementary to the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA) (proposed by the Commission in December 2020 and now being discussed in the European Parliament and the Council), as well as the planned initiative on transparency of political advertising.

The aspects of the Code the Guidance will aim to improve include:

  • reducing the monetisation of disinformation linked to sponsored content by limiting: (i) false or misleading issue-based advertisements on online platforms or third-party websites; and (ii) the placement of ads on websites that are purveyors of disinformation;
  • stepping up fact-checking by establishing transparent standards and procedures for open and non-discriminatory collaboration between fact-checkers and platforms and fostering cooperation;
  • strengthening the integrity of services offered by online platforms by developing appropriate measures to limit the artificial amplification of disinformation campaigns (limiting fake accounts and the use of bots);
  • exploring transparency in relation to the visibility of authoritative information of public interest;
  • exploring measures such as trustworthiness indicators to provide users with tools and information to assess the source, including the integration of such indicators into the signatories’ services and their content moderation systems;
  • ensuring effective data disclosure for research on disinformation, including easy access to the relevant data, by developing a framework in line with applicable regulatory requirements, and based on the involvement of all relevant stakeholders (independently from political influence); and
  • monitoring the impact of disinformation and the effectiveness of the platforms’ policies, including by key performance indicators. In this context, timely information on the platforms’ policies and access to relevant data and their assessment of relevant developments is key.

The roadmap is open for feedback until midnight Brussels time on 29 April 2021. To access the roadmap, click here.