EU calls on US tech giants to step up efforts combating fake news

EU calls on US tech giants to step up efforts combating fake news
© Greg Nash

The European Union is calling on U.S. tech giants to step up their efforts against disinformation on their platforms as the EU prepares for new elections.

The EU’s enforcement body, the European Commission, lauded Google, Facebook, Twitter and Mozilla on Tuesday for steps they have taken, but said more needs to be done.

“Signatories have taken action, for example giving people new ways to get more details about the source of a story or ad,” Andrus Ansip, the commission’s vice president for the digital single market, said in a statement. “Now they should make sure these tools are available to everyone across the EU, monitor their efficiency, and continuously adapt to new means used by those spreading disinformation. There is no time to waste.”

The companies and some of their trade associations signed a commitment this month to better combat the spread of disinformation, and this week they submitted their first progress reports on the effort.

The commission’s Code of Practice calls for transparency around political ads, a crackdown on bots and fake accounts and making data available for researchers.

The EU regulators said Facebook needs to step its partnerships with fact-checkers and academics researching disinformation. They said Google had implemented all of the actions required under the code, but needed to make its tools available to more member states.

Officials said Twitter needs to be more clear about how its efforts to fight bots spreading disinformation will extend to users pushing fake news.

"Supporting elections in Europe and around the world is hugely important to us,” Lie Junius, Google’s director of public policy, said in a blog post. “We’ll continue to work in partnership with the EU through its Code of Practice on Disinformation, including by publishing regular reports about our work to prevent abuse, as well as with governments, law enforcement, others in our industry and the NGO community to strengthen protections around elections, protect users, and help combat disinformation."

A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement: “We have invested in heavily in fighting false news. We remove fake accounts and content that violates our Community Standards.”

And a Twitter spokesman said, "Disinformation is a societal problem and therefore requires a societal response. We continue to work closely with the European Commission to play our part in tackling it.”

The commission will start publishing monthly reports on these efforts in February.