The European Commission has called on the social networking sites and other internet services to help restrain the proliferation of fake news on the web as it plans to formulate a code of practice on disinformation for the European Union. The code of practice is set to be completed by July as part of a broader effort to ramp up regulation on the placement of advertisements online by instituting policies that would force online platforms to cut the revenue streams for the entities that spread fake news and limit the way political adverts reach their intended audience. In addition to the code of practice, the Commission also advocates for the establishment of an independent network of fact-checking individuals and an online portal on fake news to help curb the spread of disinformation.
Advertisers and internet companies are urged to take action on the code of practice on or before October or face tougher regulations by the EU if they fail to comply with it. The EU’s ongoing crackdown on disinformation in the region comes as it prepares for the European elections next year. The Commission fears the continued dissemination of fake news could have a serious impact on the outcome of the upcoming polls following the revelations that state actors attempted to interfere with the results of the 2016 elections in the United States by exploiting social media platforms such as Facebook. The Commission cited as an example the recent disclosure about how the British political consultancy and data mining firm, Cambridge Analytica, harvested the private information of up to 87 million Facebook users to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. elections, describing the incident as having tainted the reputation of online platforms in terms of guarding the privacy of their users from third-party entities.
Facebook has since stepped up efforts to clamp down on organizations that misused the private data of its huge base of users, having recently closed the account of another data analytics company, CubeYou, the third company whose Facebook account has been suspended for violating the privacy of individuals. Late last month, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan and Deputy General Counsel Ashlie Beringer also announced that the social media platform would make its privacy tools more easily discoverable for users.