The European Commission threw down the gauntlet in 2021 and big tech signing the new Code of Good Practice against Disinformation. Now, as a result of that agreement, Brussels has just published the first batch of reports, one for which each company has filled out. You can check them all on the Code website.
There are the big tech ones —Google, Meta, Microsoft, Twitter or even Adobe—. There is a resounding absence, that of Amazon, which is present through its social network, Twitch. There are also reports from fact checkers, like Maldita, and activist organizations, like Avaaz.
The documents, which in some cases number close to one hundred pages, include the commitments that were reached when the Code of Good Practices was signed and detail how and with what specifics these clauses are being tried to be fulfilled. And yet not all responses have been enthusiastic to Brussels.
The European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Equality, Věra Jourová, has shown her “disappointment” to see that the Twitter report “it lags far behind compared to others.” “I expect much more seriousness in the commitment of its obligations.”
This literalness is collected in a press release from Brussels – which you can consult here – in which Jourová also highlights the “important milestone” represented by the publication “of the first reports of the Code”. “I like to see how most of the signatories, big and small, are responding.”
“I am also glad to see the first reports at the country level, but more work is needed to provide data to researchers. We have to have more transparency and we cannot leave the preservation of data only in the hands of online platforms. They need to be independent and verifiable data,” adds Jourová.
The Code of Good Practices against Disinformation, although it was born as a non-legally binding project, can be of enormous help, especially to technological multinationals that in the coming months will be closely monitored by Brussels through the imminent Digital Services Regulation or DSA, for its acronym in English.
If the Digital Market Regulation (DMA) introduces new prohibitions and sanctioning mechanisms so that the Commission can avoid further distortions to the free market in the Union, the DSA does the same when it comes to guaranteeing the healthiest possible relationship between users and platforms online.
Thierry Breton himself, Commissioner for the Internal Market, anticipates that the publication of these first reports represents “one more step in the fight against disinformation” and it is “in the interest” of all signatories to show their commitments and how they implement the text of this Code to your daily practice “to anticipate the obligations that the Digital Services Regulation will incorporate”.
“By offering full access to all of today’s reports, the Transparency Center gives the opportunity to everyone — including researchers and NGOs — to dive into all the available data and drive improvements in progress and towards transparency,” he considers the commissar.
Breton, however, and without making direct references to Twitter, does say that he is not surprised by the see “a wide range of quality” across reports “taking into account the resources available to the companies that have signed this project”.
Since Elon Musk landed at the head of Twitter, few changes have been introduced to improve the fight against disinformation on a platform that, for many experts, has contributed to the spread of hoaxes, misinformation and messages that are polarizing society.
Some tweets, currently only in the US, already display tags with context explaining why the information shared in a post may be inaccurate and giving all the details. However, little else has been done, and the report that Twitter has posted in the Transparency Center of the Code of Good Practices is sparing in words
At all times, Musk’s company is limited to constantly referring to its content and platform use policies. Only in certain commitments, Twitter advances that when the DSA prevails, it will relaunch its Advertiser Transparency Center, which worked until 2019 “and gave users access to a list of accounts that are advertised on the platform.”
TikTok is committed to improving
Another taste in the mouth has left another of the reports. TikTok, which already met with European commissioners a few weeks ago, has once again shown signs of closeness and understanding with the Old Continent and has offered in its first report an acknowledgment that “there is still a lot of work to be done.”
“While we are proud to be able to offer this level of data granularity for the first time, we recognize that there is still work to be done. In the coming months we will continue to invest in a large number of initiatives,” explained Caroline Greer, director of Public Policies and Institutional Relations of the multinational in a statement from the firm.
The war in Ukraine unleashes a wave of misinformation on social networks, with hundreds of videos and sounds of alleged war zones published without filter
In mid-January it was already known that skepticism was growing in Brussels about the use that the platform of Chinese origin makes of its users’ data. That materialized just a few days later, with the European Union’s head of Digital Policy issuing a warning directly to TikTok:
“We will not hesitate adopt all kinds of sanctions to protect our citizens.”