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Vimeo, Clubhouse & Co. join the EU code against disinformation

The EU Commission welcomes eight new supporters for their Initiative vs. Fake News. Facebook alone removes hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 content every month.

Eight new supporters want to follow the code of conduct initiated by the EU Commission three years ago to combat disinformation and, for example, take stronger action against fake news about the coronavirus pandemic and vaccinations against Covid-19. The Brussels government institution announced this on Friday. The future signatories include the video platform Vimeo and the talk app Clubhouse.

No forum for misleading content

Previously, operators of large social networks and search engines such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, TikTok, and Twitter had signed the code. In 2020, the commission issued the slogan that in this context the infodemic, which was rampant in parallel to the Covid 19 pandemic, had to be addressed: Reliable sources in the health sector should be promoted, false or misleading content should not be offered a forum, and illegal messages should be removed.

With DoubleVerify, another provider of advertising technology (“Ad Tech”) and organizations that provide special expertise and technical solutions to combat disinformation have now joined the self-regulation initiative. These include Avaaz, Globsec, Logically, NewsGuard and WhoTargetsMe.

“Curb the flood of harmful disinformation”

The Commission wants to tighten and expand the code significantly. According to her, recent election campaigns and reports from previous signatories have shown that “significant additional efforts are required” “to stem the tide of harmful disinformation.” The current agreement was a good first step in this direction. However, “significant inadequacies” such as the lack of a suitable monitoring mechanism, central performance indicators and rules for access to data for researchers as well as “limited participation”, particularly from the advertising industry, would have to be addressed.

Věra Jourová, Commission Vice-President for Values ​​and Transparency, was delighted with the newcomers . At the same time, she encouraged other platforms, messaging services and players from the ad tech industry to “join the code as soon as possible”. With its guidelines from May, the Commission had high expectations for the expansion of the agreement . The Czech warned: “Online actors have a special responsibility with regard to the dissemination and commercialization of disinformation. Corresponding services must be made more transparent, responsible and secure from the ground up.”

Imposing costs on perpetrators, withdrawing revenue from platforms

According to the executive body, instruments are particularly needed “which enable the perpetrators to be charged with costs”. It has taken especially a waiver of the switching of advertising on dubious platforms in view to escape to these revenues. According to the revised guidelines, platforms and representatives of the online advertising system should take on more responsibility and work better together to prevent the financing of disinformation. At the same time , the EU committees are working on overarching legal requirements for portals and networks with the Digital Services Act (DSA).

Also on Friday, the Commission published the reports from Google, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Microsoft on the measures that the companies took in July and August in the EU countries to contain Covid-19 disinformation . Facebook alone removed over 270,000 posts from its own network and from its subsidiary Instagram that violated the relevant guidelines in the two summer months.

New highs reached for blockages

Google reported that it had taken action against 16,479 URLs in its in-house advertising program, AdSense, in July and August. This was 1584 addresses more than in June, with the largest increase with over 1000 URLs being in France. The number of banners and ad accounts that were rejected for violating Covid-19 advertising policies remained roughly the same.

The Microsoft report shows that in July the number of ads blocked by the group for users in the EU about the pandemic fell sharply by over 50 percent to 286,485 compared to June. In August, however, the trend was completely reversed: Then a good 5.4 million ads were blocked for violating Microsoft advertising guidelines, the highest value since the start of the European program to control Covid-19 disinformation.

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