European Commission issues guidance on Code of Practice on Disinformation

May 26, 2021

The European Commission has published guidance on how the Code of Practice on Disinformation, which dates from 2018, should be amended to become a more effective tool for countering disinformation.

The Guidance calls for the Code to be amended in the following areas:

  • Larger participation with tailored commitments. The Commission encourages established and emerging platforms in the EU, relevant organisation in the online advertising ecosystem (eg ad exchanges, ad-tech providers, brands benefiting from ads), 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 players in the online advertising system must work together to defund disinformation, especially by exchanging information on disinformation ads refused by one of the signatories, improving transparency and accountability regarding ad placements and barring participation by organisations systematically posting debunked content.
  • Ensure the integrity of services. The strengthened Code should provide a 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), and include tailored commitments to ensure transparency and accountability of measures taken to reduce its effects.
  • Empower users to understand and flag disinformation. Users need to have access to tools to better understand and safely navigate the online environment. The signatories must make their recommender systems transparent, and take measures to mitigate the risks that these fuel, such as the viral spread of disinformation. They should also provide their users with accessible, effective tools and procedures to flag disinformation with the potential to cause public or individual harm. Users whose content or accounts have been subject to measures taken in response to such flagging, should have access to an appropriate and transparent mechanism to appeal and seek redress. The strengthened code should also enhance the visibility of reliable information of public interest, and warn users who interacted with content marked as false by fact-checkers.
  • Increase the coverage of fact-checking and providing increased access to data to researchers. The new Code should include better cooperation with fact-checkers and increase coverage across EU countries and languages. The strengthened Code should also include a robust framework for access to data for researchers.
  • 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 the 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 breakdowns by member state.

Finally, signatories should develop a Transparency Centre where they indicate which policies they adopted to implement the Code’s commitments, how they have been enforced, and display all the data and metrics relevant to the KPIs. The Guidance also proposes the establishment of a permanent task force chaired by the Commission to review and adapt the Code in view of technological, societal, market and legislative developments.

The Commission wants the 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 and plans to have a revised Code by the autumn of this year.