European Commission Publishes Guidance On Strengthening The Code Of Practice On Disinformation



The new guidance sets out Commission expectations, calls for stronger commitments by signatories and calls for broader participation in the Code.
European Union Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment
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The new guidance sets out Commission expectations, calls for stronger commitments by signatories and calls for broader participation in the Code. Based on a robust monitoring framework and clear performance indicators, signatories should reduce financial incentives to disinformation, empower users to take an active role in preventing its spread, better cooperate with fact-checkers across EU Member States and languages, and provide a framework for access to data for researchers.

The Guidance calls for reinforcement of the Code by strengthening it in the following areas:

  • broader participation with tailored commitments: the Commission calls on established and emerging platforms active in the EU, relevant stakeholders in the online advertising ecosystem (e.g. ad exchanges, ad-tech providers, brands benefitting from ads etc), private messaging services, as well as stakeholders that can contribute with resources or expertise to the Code's effective functioning, to join the Code; the strengthened Code should include new tailored commitments corresponding to the size and nature of services provided by signatories;
  • demonetise disinformation: platforms and actors in the online advertising ecosystem must take responsibility and work together better to defund disinformation by exchanging information on disinformation ads, improving transparency and accountability around ad placements and barring participation by actors that systematically post discredited content;
  • ensure the integrity of services: the strengthened Code should provide comprehensive coverage of the current and emerging forms of manipulative behaviour used to spread disinformation (such as bots, fake accounts, organised manipulation campaigns, account takeovers etc), and include tailored commitments to ensure transparency and accountability of measures taken to reduce its impact;
  • empower users to understand and flag disinformation: users need to have access to tools to better understand and safely navigate the online environment; signatories must make the way users see content transparent and take measures to mitigate the risks of viral spread of disinformation; they should also provide their users with accessible, effective tools and procedures to flag disinformation that has the potential to cause harm; users, whose content or accounts have been subject to measures taken in response to such flagging, should have access to appropriate and transparent mechanisms to appeal and seek redress; the strengthened code should also enhance the visibility of reliable public interest information and warn users who interact with content marked as false by fact-checkers;
  • increase the coverage of fact-checking and provide better data access to researchers: the new Code should include better cooperation with fact-checkers and increase coverage across EU countries and languages; it should also include a robust framework for access to data for researchers; and
  • a robust monitoring framework: the strengthened Code should include an improved monitoring framework based on clear key performance indicators (KPIs) measuring the results and impact of actions taken by platforms as well as the overall impact of the Code on disinformation in the EU; platforms should regularly report on the measures taken and their relevant KPIs to the Commission; information and data should be provided by the platforms in standardised formats, with Member State breakdowns.

Finally, signatories should develop a Transparency Centre where they set out the policies they have adopted to implement the Code's commitments, how they have been enforced, and display all data and metrics relevant to the KPIs. The guidance also proposes the establishment of a permanent task force chaired by the Commission that would be composed of signatories, representatives from the European External Action Service, the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA) and from the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO). The task force, which will also rely on the support of experts, will help review and adapt the Code in view of technological, societal, market and legislative developments.

The Commission calls upon signatories of the Code of Practice to convene and strengthen the Code in line with the guidance. It also encourages new signatories to join the Code. The Commission wants signatories to provide a first draft of a revised Code in the autumn. To read the Commission's press release in full and for a link to the guidance, click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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