January 31, 2019

POLITICO

Pro Morning Tech: Jourová on privacy — Information on disinformation — Schaake’s question

DISINFORMATION — COMMISSIONERS WANT MORE FROM SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS: When assessing the first four months of the code of practice on disinformation, the Commission noted that Google, Facebook and Twitter had become more active and efficient in spotting and deleting fake accounts and demonetizing content spreading false information. However, a lot remains to be done on transparency, they argued. Facebook, for example, needs to boost the empowerment of consumers and cooperation with the research community. Read more here from me, or below.

Platforms react: “Disinformation is a societal problem and therefore requires a societal response. We continue to work closely with the European Commission to play our part in tackling it,” a Twitter spokesperson told Morning Tech. “Supporting elections in Europe and around the world is hugely important to us. We’ll continue to work in partnership with the EU through its code of practice on disinformation,” said Google’s Director of Public Policy Lie Junius. A Facebook spokesperson said: “We have invested heavily in fighting false news. We remove fake accounts and content that violates our community standards … However, the battle against false news is an ongoing one, and we need to work together with others in the technology industry, public authorities and governments to make continued progress.”

Mozilla’s side of the story: “We agree with the Commission that some major tech companies have not yet taken sufficient action to address the problem of disinformation. The major tech companies that have signed onto the code of practice need to provide more transparency into political advertising, and support researchers and other organizations, like Mozilla, working in good faith to strengthen our democratic processes,” Raegan MacDonald, Mozilla’s head of EU policy, told Morning Tech (Mozilla is also a code signatory).

Schaake’s Facebook question: Liberal MEP Marietje Schaake reacted to reports that Facebook blocked automatic pulling of information on ad targeting by sending official questions to the European Commission. The Dutch politician asked how the Commission assesses the compatibility of the blocking with the commitments of the code of conduct, and what tools the EU executive body has at its disposal if the code is violated.

About those consumers: One criticism the Commission levied at tech giants was that they are not “empowering” consumers by giving them tools to evaluate the news they read online. Platforms have responded to the challenge largely by funding fact-checking operations, but some are going a step further.

— Microsoft has inked a deal with U.S.-based media company NewsGuard, headed by journalist-entrepreneur Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz, to provide in-browser quality control for news sites viewed on its Edge browser. Each one gets a color-coded ranking based on research carried out by NewsGuard’s staff, so readers have a sense of an outlet’s credibility before they click on a story. The company is currently in “rather advanced discussions” with Facebook about a possible deal to feature NewsGuard on the platform, according to a person involved in the talks.