Brussels is being urged to take a harsher stance toward online companies spreading “fake news.” Until now, the hope has been fore a less stern approach and allow tech companies to self-govern.
The European Union is accused of inadequate action against the spread of misinformation. Activists are concerned that the E.U. won’t adequately investigate tech companies promoting content deliberately spreading inaccurate or entirely false information.
Next month, the E.U. will publish its first set of regulations to guide member governments and tech groups operating there in combating a number of forms of “online disinformation.” Examples of the types of content included are: false news stories, conspiracy theories not identified as such, and altered videos.
The current voluntary approach Brussels has taken is seen as inadequate. The E.U. has given the tech companies the opportunity to choose their level of compliance. This has drawn significant criticism. Critics say the E.U. simply has not done enough to control the massive amount of fake news circulating online. This disinformation is blamed for influencing European election results.
Social Media’s Influence
MEPs and activists alike are calling for the E.U. to hold an inquiry into the subject. They feel social media companies should be investigated. The purpose would be to examine their business models and determine if those companies are generating higher ad revenues on trusted news or on fake content.
Dutch European Parliament member Marietje Schaake stated that social media platform models “inherently push sensational content on newsfeeds that is often false, inaccurate, or misleading.” She added that: “We need to address this elephant in the room if we want to get serious about disinformation.”
No Inquiry Yet
Schaake and others spoke out following a recent report from Brussels. The report received considerable criticism as it failed to call for an inquiry into the spread of disinformation. The report also supported a voluntary code of conduct for tech and online companies as well as media organizations and advertisers.
Critics don’t feel this is anywhere close to being enough. That said, the report was produced by 39 experts in their fields. They included experts from internet companies as well as academics and journalists.
The report stated that it is important to encourage online literacy as a primary goal. The reason is that if people are better equipped to recognize disinformation on their own, it will naturally bolster quality journalism.
MEPs, activists and other groups strongly disagree with that approach. That stance has been reflected in recent moves taken by some advertisers. One prime example includes Unilever. The massive consumer goods company threatened to withdraw all its ads from Facebook and Google if they continue creating “division,” failing to protect children or fostering hate.