Today, the European Commission published the assessment results from the implementation and effectiveness of the Code of Practice on Disinformation as based on the December 2018 Action Plan against Disinformation. The positive outcomes of the Code are increased accountability of online platforms and public scrutiny of the measures taken by the signatories, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Mozilla and, as from June 2020, TikTok, to counter disinformation within the EU. However, some shortcomings mainly due to the Code's self-regulatory nature remain.
This Code is the first one of its kind worldwide in providing a framework for a structured dialogue between relevant stakeholders to ensure greater transparency of online platforms' policies against disinformation within the EU. Online platforms signatories to the Code committed to put in place policies aimed at:
- reducing advertisement opportunities and economic incentives for actors that spread disinformation online,
- enhancing transparency of political advertising by labelling political ads as such and providing searchable repositories of such ads,
- taking action against the use of manipulative techniques by malicious actors on platforms' services designed to artificially boost the spread of information online and enable certain false narrative to become viral,
- providing technological features that give prominence to trustworthy information, so that users have more instruments and tools to critically assess content they access online, and
- engaging in collaborative activities with fact-checkers and the research community.
Despite its partial success, the assessment identified the following aspects for further improvement:
- the absence of relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess the effectiveness of platforms' policies to counter the phenomenon;
- the lack of clearer procedures, commonly shared definition and more precise commitments;
- the lack of access to data allowing for an independent evaluation of emerging trends and threats posed by online disinformation;
- missing structured cooperation between platforms and the research community;
- the need to involve other relevant stakeholders, in particular from the advertising sector.
Věra Jourová, Vice President for Values and Transparency, said: “The Code of Practice has shown that online platforms and the advertising sector can do a lot to counter disinformation when they are put under public scrutiny. But platforms need to be more accountable and responsible; they need to become more transparent. The time has come to go beyond self-regulatory measures. Europe is best placed to lead the way and propose instruments for more resilient and fair democracy in an increasingly digital world.”