(BRUSSELS) – The EU Commission welcomed Tuesday the commitment of Facebook, Google and Twitter to act against disinformation but said more needs to be done ahead of European elections due to take place next month.
The EU executive published the latest reports by the social media giants covering progress made in March 2019 to fight disinformation. The online platforms are signatories to a Code of Practice against disinformation and have committed to report monthly on their actions ahead of the European Parliament elections in May.
In a statement, the Commission said: “We appreciate the efforts made by Facebook, Google and Twitter to increase transparency ahead of the European elections. We welcome that the three platforms have taken further action to fulfil their commitments under the Code.”
It welcomed the fact that they have started labelling political advertisements on their platforms. It said Facebook and Twitter have made political advertisement libraries publicly accessible, while Google’s library has entered “a testing phase”, to increase transparency around political ads.
However, further technical improvements as well as sharing of methodology and data sets for fake accounts are necessary to allow third-party experts, fact-checkers and researchers to carry out independent evaluation, the statement adds.
The Commission says it is regrettable that Google and Twitter have not yet reported further progress regarding transparency of issue-based advertising, meaning issues that are sources of important debate during elections.
The Commission welcomes acti on taken by Facebook, Google and Twitter to “ensure the integrity of their services and fight against malicious bots and fake accounts”.
In particular, it welcomes Google increasing cooperation with fact-checking organisations and networks. And it says that three platforms have been carrying out initiatives to promote media literacy and provide training to journalists and campaign staff.
However, a lot more remains to be done, says the Commission.
Main outcome of the reports:
Google reported on specific actions taken to improve scrutiny of ad placements in the EU, including a breakdown per Member State. It gave an update on its election ads policy, which it started enforcing on 21 March 2019, and announced the launch of its EU Elections Ads Transparency Report and its searchable ad library available in April. Google has not reported further progress regarding the definition of issue-based advertising. Similarly to the last report, global data was provided on the removal of a significant number of YouTube channels for violation of its policies on spam, deceptive practices and scams, and impersonation.
Facebook reported on actions taken against the ads that violated its policies for containing low quality, disruptive, misleading or false content or circumvented its systems. It provided further information on its political ads policy, which will apply also to Instagram. The company noted the launch of a new, publicly available Ad Library globally on 28 March 2019, covering Facebook and Instagram, and highlighted the expansion of access to its Ad Library application programming interface. Facebook reported on the number of fake accounts disabled globally in Q1 of 2019 and on the takedown of eight coordinated inauthentic behaviour networks, originating in North Macedonia, Kosovo and Russia. The report did not state whether these networks also affected users in the EU.
Twitter reported an update to its political campaigning ads policy and provided further details on the public disclosure of political ads in Twitter’s Ad Transparency Centre. Twitter provided figures on actions undertaken against spam and fake accounts, but did not provide further insights on these actions and how they relate to activity in the EU. Twitter did not report on any actions to improve the scrutiny of ad placements or provide any metrics with respect to its commitments in this area.