EU STEPS UP FIGHT AGAINST ‘FAKE NEWS’ AHEAD OF ELEC­TIONS

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Euro­pean Union au­thor­i­ties want in­ter­net com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Google, Facebook and Twit­ter to file monthly re­ports on their progress erad­i­cat­ing “fake news” cam­paigns from their plat­forms ahead of elec­tions next year.

Of­fi­cials from the EU’s ex­ec­u­tive Com­mis­sion un­veiled the mea­sures as part of an ac­tion plan to counter dis­in­for­ma­tion in the lead up to the con­ti­nent-wide vote in the spring.

The in­ter­net com­pa­nies will have to sub­mit their re­ports from Jan­uary un­til May, when hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple in 27 EU mem­ber coun­tries are sched­uled to vote for 705 law­mak­ers in the bloc’s par­lia­ment.

The Com­mis­sion sin­gled out Rus­sia.

“There is strong ev­i­dence point­ing to Rus­sia as a pri­mary source of dis­in­for­ma­tion in Europe,” said Com­mis­sion Vice Pres­i­dent An­drus An­sip.

Many EU mem­ber coun­tries have al­ready taken ac­tion to com­bat dis­in­for­ma­tion, but now “we need to work to­gether and co­or­di­nate our ef­forts,” he said.

Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties have re­peat­edly re­jected Western ac­cu­sa­tions of spon­sor­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns and de­scribed them as part of Western ef­forts to smear the coun­try.

Other mea­sures in­clude a new “rapid alert sys­tem,” beef­ing up bud­gets and adding ex­pert staff and data anal­y­sis tools.

Google, Facebook, Twit­ter and browser maker Mozilla are the com­pa­nies that so far have signed up to a vol­un­tary EU code of con­duct on fight­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion.

They’ll be ex­pected to re­port on how they’re car­ry­ing out com­mit­ments they made un­der the code, in­clud­ing their work on mak­ing po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­tis­ing more trans­par­ent and how many fake and bot ac­counts they have iden­ti­fied and shut down. They’ll also pro­vide up­dates on their co­op­er­a­tion with fact-check­ers and aca­demic re­searchers to un­cover dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns.

Google, which de­clined to com­ment, has tight­ened up re­quire­ments for po­lit­i­cal ads in the EU, in­clud­ing re­quir­ing in­for­ma­tion on who paid for them and for buy­ers to ver­ify their iden­ti­ties. Facebook, which did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment, did the same for po­lit­i­cal ads in Bri­tain.

U.S. tech­nol­ogy gi­ants have com­mit­ted mil­lions of dol­lars, tens of thou­sands of em­ploy­ees and what they say are their best tech­ni­cal ef­forts into fight­ing fake news, pro­pa­ganda and hate that has pro­lif­er­ated on their dig­i­tal plat­forms.

“We need to see the in­ter­net plat­forms step up and make some real progress on their com­mit­ments,” said Ju­lian King, the EU se­cu­rity com­mis­sioner. If there’s not enough head­way, the Com­mis­sion would con­sider other op­tions in­clud­ing reg­u­la­tion, he said.

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