The European Commission has urged Google, Twitter, and Facebook to “step up” their efforts to fight disinformation online as the bloc prepares for key elections in May.
This warning comes after the Commission’s call on the authorities of the European Union to share their “real-time” data on possible disinformation campaigns, particularly from Russia.
European Commissioner for the Digital Economy Mariya Gabriel forcefully made the case for the Commission saying, “The time of good words is over”, adding, “We need to go further and faster before May.”
According to the report, which covers measures taken by December 31, shows that some of the more comprehensive efforts have resulted in the taking down of a few fake accounts and isolated cases where the EU has been able to de-fund certain purveyors of Russian disinformation that is aimed at weakening the European institutions.
Gabriel’s request comes a day after Facebook announced the launch of an initiative aimed at empowering consumers with tools to boost cooperation and to fact-check the information that is gathered about them.
Google has, according to the company’s own statements, “taken steps to implement all its commitments”, when it comes to better scrutinising ad placements. Google has, however, warned that not all tools are available in every European country, a fact that the Commission also noted when it called for EU-wide accessibility for search tools and online search engines.
Twitter has moved to prioritise its actions by closing fake or suspicious accounts and automated systems/bots. “Still, more information is needed as to how this will restrict persistent purveyors of disinformation from promoting their tweets,” the Commission added.
An upgraded version of Mozilla’s Firefox browser will be launched and capable of blocking cross-site tracking by default. Mozilla will, however, need to be more definitive as to how it will limit the information revealed about users’ browsing activities, which could potentially be used for disinformation campaigns.
Ahead of the European elections, reports will be issued on a monthly basis by the Commission which will “carry out a full assessment” of the application of the “Code of Conduct” by the end of the year, though Brussels remains dismayed over the fact that none of the major companies who operate in Europe and who specialise in advertising had signed the code.
“If the results prove unsatisfactory, the Commission could propose other actions that include new regulation,” the EU executive said while adding that it is ready to impose legislative obligations on any major company if vast improvements are not seen.