The European Commission has strengthened its Code of Practice on Disinformation, following guidance published in 2021 that it should be updated to take into account events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war with Ukraine.
The latest version builds on the original code of practice that was established in 2018, setting out a number of new commitments by both technology platforms and the broader industry to better fight disinformation online.
Demonetising the distribution of disinformation; ensuring the transparency of political advertising; maximising cooperation with fact-checkers; and providing researchers with better access to data are all amongst the pledges signatories have committed to.
“The Commission now has very significant commitments to reduce the impact of disinformation online and much more robust tools to measure how these are implemented across the EU in all countries and in all its languages,” Věra Jourová, vice president for values and transparency at the European Commission, said as part of a press release announcing the new code of practice.
The code has been initially signed by 34 parties, including major social media platforms like Meta, Twitter, and TikTok, and tech giants including Adobe, Google, and Microsoft. Amazon was a notable absentee.
The code will be enforced through the Digital Services Act, a piece of EU legislation that was approved in April 2022 to better protect European users from online disinformation and illegal content, goods, and services.
Signatories will have six months to implement the measures to which they have signed up and will be required to provide the Commission with their first implementation reports at the beginning of 2023. A newly formed taskforce will then meet at six-month intervals to monitor and adapt the commitments in view of technological, societal, market, and legislative developments.
Thierry Breton, commissioner for the internal market at the European Commission, said in a statement that spreading disinformation should never be a financially viable practice and that online platforms needed to be stronger when it came to tackling the problem, especially on the issue of funding.
“Very large platforms that repeatedly break the Code and do not carry out risk mitigation measures properly risk fines of up to 6% of their global turnover,” he said.
The strengthened Code of Practice contains 44 commitments and 128 specific measures that can be broadly grouped into the following areas:
- Cutting financial incentives for purveyors of disinformation
- Transparency of political advertising
- Ensuring the integrity of services
- Empowering users
- Empowering researchers
- Empowering the fact-checking community
- Establishing a transparency centre and taskforce
- Strengthening a monitoring framework