The EU wants tech giants to do more to counter fake news against viruses

The EU wants tech giants to do more to counter fake news against viruses

BRUSSELS (AP) – A senior European Union official on Wednesday warned online platforms such as Google and Facebook to step up the fight against fake news from countries such as China and Russia in particular, but she praised Twitter’s approach for checking a tweet by US President Donald Trump.

European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova unveiled a plan to fight coronavirus disinformation and said she wants online technology companies to publish much more detailed reports every month than the action they are taking to “ infodemic ” fake news appearance.

The EU Commission said that “foreign actors and certain third countries, in particular Russia and China” are flooding Europe with “targeted influencing and disinformation campaigns”. It cited dangerous misinformation, such as claims that drinking bleach can cure the disease and washing hands does not help prevent its spread.

“I’m afraid the flow of disinformation will continue,” Jourova said, adding that vaccination appears to be the next major topic subject to misinformation. She cited a study that found “Germany’s willingness to take vaccination declined by nearly 20 percentage points.” in less than two months. ‘

The virus has infected 7.2 million people worldwide and killed nearly 412,000 people, of which approximately 180,000 are in Europe, according to official figures from Johns Hopkins University. The actual toll is believed to be much higher because many people died without being tested.

Jourova praised those American digital giants who agreed to additional research under a voluntary code of conduct aimed at stopping the spread of disinformation related to the virus, but she told reporters that this is only a first step and that “there there is room for improvement “.

“They need to open up and provide more evidence that the measures they have taken work well. They should also enable the public to independently identify new threats. We now invite them to provide monthly reports with more detailed information than ever before, ”said Jourova.

She noted that TikTok, a short video app, would soon be signing up to the disinformation code launched in 2018.

While the commission praised the platforms for removing millions of deceptive ads, some of which are driving consumers to buy expensive or potentially dangerous products, Jourova called on companies to “provide monthly reports with more detailed information than ever before.”

The reports should include what they are doing to promote trustworthy and authoritative content, details of how they highlight information from national and international health authorities, steps they are taking to improve user awareness and details about social media manipulation by the companies.

Jourova allayed concerns that the EU Commission, which proposes laws in the bloc of 27 countries and ensures that they are complied with, intends to regulate disinformation itself by saying, “I don’t want to create a ministry of truth.”

But she praised Twitter’s approach last month, when it posted fact-check warnings on two tweets from Trump’s own account, which called election ballot papers “fraudulent” and predicted problems with the US elections in November.

Under the tweets, there is now a link that says “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” that takes users to a Twitter moments page with fact-checking and news stories about Trump’s unsubstantiated claims.

“I support the Twitter response to President Trump’s tweets,” Jourova told reporters. “They didn’t remove it. We can all see it. They provided factual information and promoted facts. ‘

The major U.S. tech companies, which have been submitting monthly reports on the progress of eradicating fake news in general through their platforms since February 2019, said they are requesting new EU requests for more detailed data on their work to mitigate virus-related disinformation and advertising , support.

“We share the European Commission’s goal of reducing misinformation about COVID-19,” Facebook said in a statement. The company noted its efforts in fact checking, labeling content and “removing hundreds of thousands of pieces of misinformation about the virus that could lead to immediate bodily harm”.

Twitter has “been in specific contact with the European Commission, as well as with industrial partners, civil society and the research community on COVID-19 since February,” said Sinead McSweeney, vice president of government policy. The social media company said it reinforces the way it handles misinformation, including promoting better media literacy across the EU.

Google said it is working with Jourova and the national authorities, and strives to “find new and creative ways to continue the fight against disinformation.”


Kelvin Chan in London contributed to this report.


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