Online platforms promise EU to increase transparency of political advertising

31 July 2018 3:43pm

10 July 2018. By Cynthia Kroet.

Online platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Google will commit to writing an annual account of their work to make political advertising online more transparent, MLex has learned.

Platforms will make a series of commitments to the EU to tackle online disinformation, according to a draft Code of Practice seen by MLex. Among them is a pledge to provide a publicly available report each year, reviewed by a third party.

The document, to be delivered on July 17, is a set of self-regulatory measures from platforms and the advertising industry to set out their roles and responsibilities in combating fake news.

The European Commission proposed the code in April as part of a plan to map out the impact of false information. Officials are concerned that foreign states could try to undermine political processes in EU countries through misinformation, following allegations of Russian influence in the election of US President Donald Trump and in the UK’s Brexit vote.

The draft version of the code points out five areas in which platforms will take action. First, they will put processes in place to ensure that accounts and websites that “repeatedly misrepresent information about themselves” can’t receive advertising revenue.

They will also flag political advertising more clearly to readers, and invest in technologies to raise users’ awareness about fake news.

When it comes to algorithms, the platforms pledge to put “clear policies in place” on the use of automated bots on their services. And they will come up with policies on what is seen as “impermissible use of automated systems,” and make these plans publicly available.

But the platforms do stress that companies should not be asked by governments, nor should they adopt voluntary policies to delete or block content on the sole basis it might be false, because this is against the EU principle of freedom of opinion.

The draft code will need feedback from a panel of media representatives appointed by the EU by early September, before final publication. The commission will report on the state of play and the actions taken by the platforms by the end of this year, before deciding if further regulation is needed.

An independent working group on fake news and online disinformation presented recommendations to the industry in March. And the European Parliament hosted a series of hearings in recent weeks on Facebook's data breach by data-mining company Cambridge Analytica, in which EU lawmakers called for concrete action.

Andrea Jelinek