EU’s Fake News Guidelines Based on Bad Report

News: World News
by Anita Carey  •  •  April 26, 2018   

Leader of commission blasts guidelines for not addressing core causes of fake news

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BRUSSELS ( - The European Union wants "measurable" progress in stopping fake news, but critics say the code is toothless and fails to address the link between advertising revenue and the spread of disinformation.

Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the European Union (EU) has called fake news "A global phenomenon with political impact." In a press release from Thursday, Sir Julian King, the commissioner for the Security Union said, "The weaponisation [sic] of on-line [sic] fake news and disinformation poses a serious security threat to our societies."

The EU outlined its proposed measures to "tackle" online disinformation in the press release, recommending an EU-wide Code of Practice, support for an independent network of fact-checkers and measures to "stimulate quality journalism and promote media literacy."

"The subversion of trusted channels to peddle pernicious and divisive content requires a clear-eyed response based on increased transparency, traceability and accountability," King states.

The commission is calling for transparency in sponsored content, in particular for political advertising and targeting options for political advertising, greater clarity about the function of algorithms and third-party verification and easier access to alternate news sources.

The commission also wants fact-checkers, researchers and public authorities to have the ability to continuously monitor "online disinformation," and recommends creating a secure online platform to support the fact-checkers with cross-border data collection and access to EU-wide data.

Andrus Ansip, vice-president for the Digital Single Market, explained, "New technologies, especially digital, have expanded its reach via the online environment to undermine our democracy and society." He noted online platforms have an "important role" to stop fake news saying, "industry needs to work together on this issue."

They recommend creating a "multi-stakeholder forum" made up of representatives from online platforms, major advertisers and their agencies to pledge to create and uphold a Code of Practice for eliminating disinformation. These best practices should be published by July 2018 and have a "measurable impact by October 2018."

Mariya Gabriel, commissioner for Digital Economy and Society stated the commision will be watching the progress closely and threatened "measures of regulatory nature" by December 2018 if the "results prove unsatisfactory."

Platforms such as Google or Facebook massively benefit from users reading and sharing fake news articles which contain advertisements.

These recommendations were developed using a report made by a "high-level expert group," the HLEG, that is comprised of 39 members from various backgrounds in journalism, academics, online platforms, as well as fact-checking groups. Representatives from Google, Twitter and Facebook were included.

One of those members, Monique Goyens, who was the appointed director of the EU's Commission on fake news and is also the director general of the European Consumer Organization, blasted the report for "fail[ing] to touch upon one of the core causes of fake news."

Goyens stressed, "Consumer exposure to fake news needs to be addressed at its source." In a statement regarding the EU's fake news report in March, she said, "Evidence of the role of behavioral advertising in the dissemination of fake news is piling up."
"Platforms such as Google or Facebook massively benefit from users reading and sharing fake news articles which contain advertisements," Goyens said. She voted against the final report because the expert group does not plan to investigate the link between online platforms' advertising revenue policies and the spread of fake news.
The commission also wants to create an independent network of fact-checkers that would work together to establish best practices and become a network of "trusted flaggers." They used the example of the International Fact-Checking Network created by Poynter, as a model for the EU network. The commission stated they would not be directly involved in the network's activities but would provide "operational support."
Goyens said educating the media about fake news makes sense but is "no silver bullet." She added, "The burden for de-bunking fake news should not rest on people." She wants fake news stopped at the source and recommended that market sectors should be studied and if any discriminatory behavior is found, then the organizations responsible should be investigated.

Goyens continued to criticize the EU's Code of Practices as "non-binding" and called it a "non-starter," i.e., with no chance of succeeding.

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