EU’s Disinformation Code Will Force Big Tech To Tackle Fake News

Facebook, Twitter and TikTok are among the signatories of a new version of the EU’s anti-disinformation code that could be published as early as next Thursday and would force companies to share more data about how they tackle disinformation, according to a confidential report seen by the Financial Times. 

The EU’s anti-disinformation code is the latest attempt by EU regulators to rein in the power of Big Tech companies, and it is a prelude of what is probably coming with the recently approved Digital Services Act (DSA). Most of the large tech companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, TikTok and Microsoft, will join the EU’s code. While this code isn’t new — it was first introduced in 2018 as a voluntary code — the concessions made by the tech companies are key to understanding the impact it could have. 

First, companies will need to disclose how they are removing, blocking or curbing harmful content in advertising and in the promotion of content. Second, online platforms will have to develop tools and partnerships with fact-checkers to tackle “harmful disinformation,” and in some cases that may include taking down information. Third, big tech companies will also be forced to provide a country-by-country breakdown of their efforts, rather than providing global or Europe-wide data. 

“To respond to disinformation effectively, there is a need for country and language-specific data,” said Vera Jourova, EU’s vice-president for values and transparency in charge of the code. “We know disinformation is different in every country, and the big platforms will now have to provide meaningful data that would allow us to understand better the situation on the country level.”

The companies that sign the code will have six months to implement their measures. 

Digital Services Act 

The EU’s anti-disinformation code may lay the foundation for the content moderation rules that will be imposed through the DSA, a piece of legislation that will force Big Tech to monitor their platforms and remove illegal content. While this code is voluntary, it will be closely linked to the DSA as this legislation foresees the creation of codes of conduct to inform companies how to comply with the new content moderation rules.  

The DSA does not establish in the law how companies should identify and remove illegal content, and it explains that it will provide further guidance in secondary legislation or through codes of conduct. Thus, the updated EU disinformation code may be key to know what Big Tech would have to do to comply with the DSA and avoid hefty fines (up to 6% of global turnover).

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