HomeInsightsEuropean Commission publishes February reports from major platforms on progress made towards meeting their commitments to fight disinformation

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The online platforms (Google, Facebook and Twitter) are all signatories of the European 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 Commission said that the meeting showed that “online platforms are making progress”, and that the Commission had “good discussions with them about how they can further improve the ongoing monthly reporting requested in the Action Plan against Disinformation. Further, Commissioners said that the progress made was “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.

However, Commissioners said, “further efforts are needed by all signatories in key areas. In particular: “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 Commission wants to see the online platforms “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. In the Commission’s view, this 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.

The main outcome from the reports showed that:

  • 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 and scams, and impersonation. The Commission said that 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. However, the Commission said that Facebook should provide more information on specific actions taken against breaches of its community standards (such as misrepresentation or inauthenticity); and
  • 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. However, the Commission said, 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.

The next reports, covering actions undertaken by the platforms in the month of March, are expected to be published mid-April. The Commission says that it hopes to see further progress in a number of areas by each of the platforms.

By the end of 2019, 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. To read the Commission’s press release in full, click here.