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The updated Code of Practice on Disinformation will be backed by a Digital Services Act

New EU Code of Practice steps up war on fake news

New EU Code of Practice steps up war on fake news

It will be accompanied by a Digital Services Act to form a toolbox of measures that curtail rampant and malicious propaganda

Yesterday, the European Commission announced the publication of an updated version of its Code of Practice on Disinformation. Originally unveiled in 2018, this is a tool that has been used to encourage online platforms to commit to the fight against fake news and misleading information.

The strengthened code of practice entices online social media companies to enforce tougher rules with regard to displaying unverified content. These include more transparency on political ads, counteracting “bot accounts” and giving users more robust means to report disinformation.

There are already 34 signatories including major online platforms, notably Meta, Google, Twitter, TikTok, and Microsoft. The Code targets also other players like smaller or specialised platforms, the online ad industry, ad-tech companies, fact-checkers, and civil society organisations.

Learning the lessons from the past and building upon them

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its accompanying propaganda have clearly served as a wake-up call to the EU authorities that not enough was being done regarding the spread of disinformation. The European Commission realized that the measures that have been in place until now might have been a tad naïve and ineffective.

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, explains: “Disinformation is a form of invasion of our digital space, with tangible impact on our daily lives. Online platforms need to act strongly, especially on the issue of funding. Spreading disinformation should not bring a single euro to anyone.”

The new Code still relies on the willful participation of signatories and their goodwill to enforce change, something that critics have noted. This time, however, it will be supplemented by the upcoming Digital Services Act (DSA), which will impose heavy fines on the large players in the digital media field. They could stand to lose as much as 6% of their global turnover.

What’s more, signatories will have to provide the European Commission with implementation reports at the start of 2023 to demonstrate how they have adapted their internal rules to the Code. For this purpose, there will be a special Task Force, which will advise the Commission, after studying quantitatively and qualitatively the reports from the companies.

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