EU proposes Code of Practice on Disinformation

EU proposes Code of Practice on Disinformation
© Diarmuid Greene/Web Summit via Sportsfile

The European Commission has proposed the introduction of an EU Code of Practice on Disinformation to combat fake news online.

An EU-wide Code of Practice on Disinformation aims to address growing concern that online fake news is having a dangerous impact on European societies. A recent Eurobarometer survey revealed that some 83% of people said they felt that fake news represents a danger to democracy, particularly in cases where it is used intentionally to try to influence elections or immigration policies.

The commission defines online disinformation as information which is verifiably false or misleading, and which is created and disseminated with the aim of intentionally deceiving people, whether for economic or political gain, or for other purposes. The announcement follows the publication of a report by a high-level expert group report on combating fake news.

How will the code of practice function?

A code of practice on disinformation should be prepared by July, and is expected to include a series of specific aims to help online platforms tackle the spread of fake news. These aims should include:

  • Ensuring transparency when displaying sponsored content, and particularly political advertising;
  • Enabling third party verification;
  • Clarifying how algorithms function; and
  • Introducing additional measures to identify and close fake accounts;

Alongside the code of practice, the commission’s proposals include the establishment of an independent network of fact checkers, who will establish working methods and exchange best practices to ensure that information can be easily verified for authenticity.

Additional measures include the promotion of voluntary online identity verification systems, and additional support for member states in ensuring that elections are resilient to disinformation campaigns, alongside other complex cybersecurity threats.

What has the commission said about the proposal?

European Commissioner for the Security Union, Julian King, emphasised that the spread of disinformation online is currently a major security concern in Europe, and that tackling it remains an urgent priority.

He said: “The weaponisation of on-line fake news and disinformation poses a serious security threat to our societies. The subversion of trusted channels to peddle pernicious and divisive content requires a clear-eyed response based on increased transparency, traceability and accountability. Internet platforms have a vital role to play in countering the abuse of their infrastructure by hostile actors and in keeping their users, and society, safe.”

The commission will report on progress made in this area in December 2018.

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