This week was full of key events centered around disinformation fight. Indeed, the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) held its annual conference and the European Commission published on Thursday the long awaited revised/strengthened version of the Code of Practice on disinformation.
On Monday and Tuesday, EDMO held its annual conference in Brussels, partners of MediaFutures were present such as LUISS, DEN and KUL. The purpose of this event was to bring together European and international media and policy practitioners, academics, fact-checkers, regulators, and members of civil society organizations working on disinformation.
The event naturally focused on the Covid-19 but also on the Ukrainian and Russian conflict and related disinformation. The importance of developing proactive and defensive measures to combat disinformation was several times highlighted. Indeed, the complex phenomenon needs to be addressed by a panel of diverse measures to ensure to tackle all of its challenges. The event also focused on the media and information literacy and the research on disinformation. The topic of data access for disinformation research was also on the agenda.
As a side event to the conference, EDMO was providing its annual training event entitled : “Dealing with and verifying digital content – theory and practice”.
EDMO’s website contains already research outputs, training materials and mapping of factchecking initiatives in Europe. SOMA (Social Observatory for Disinformation and Social Media Analysis) also constitutes a network of experts monitoring online disinformation and provides useful tools to help to fight disinformation.
EDMO work will expand as more local EDMO hubs will be launched soon to reach a full coverage of the EU landscape. Furthermore, EDMO’s work will be a key part of the future permanent task force for the adaptation and evaluation of the revised Code of Practice.
On Thursday, the European Commission presented this strengthened Code of Practice on Disinformation. It contains 44 commitments and 128 specific measures. As a refresher, the original Code of practice on disinformation adopted in 2018, received mixed to negative evaluation in September 2020. Following this assessment, the European Commission delivered in May 2021 a guidance aiming to strengthen the Code. The revised Code of practice enshrine part of the recommendations in this new text. It now counts 34 signatories such as big platforms, online ad industry players, fact-checkers and civil society.
The revised Code is bringing several innovations. It includes:
The creation of a permanent Task-force. The task force will monitor and adapt the commitments in view of technological, societal, market and legislative developments. It will be composed by representative of signatories, the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Service (ERGA), EDMO and the European Commission including the EEAS (European External Action Service).
The creation of a Transparency Centre, providing a clear overview to the public of the policies they put in place to implement their commitments. It will improve transparency and provide regular updates of relevant data. This will benefit the research community.
The empowerment the fact checking, research and user communities. This will materialise thanks to several measures. Providing better data access, tools to flag disinformation, a better harmonized use of fact checking methods.
The improvement of the integrity of the signatories services.
This includes the reduction of fake accounts, bot-driven amplification, impersonation, malicious deep fakes. Providing transparency of political advertising and cutting financial incentives of purveyors of disinformation.
The Code, while stepping up the signatories effort to tackle disinformation and improving the measures, relies on the voluntary efforts of the signatories. This approach was chosen to safeguard freedom of expression, avoid over-regulation and censorship. This voluntary approach is nevertheless reinforced by the co-regulatory mechanism set up by the DSA. Thierry Breton highlighted that very large platforms that repeatedly break the Code and do not carry out risk mitigation measures properly risk fines of up to 6% of their global turnover.