EU’s Disinformation Code Will Force Big Tech to Disclose How They Tackle Fake News  

Facebook, Twitter and TikTok are among the signatories of a new version of the EU’s anti-disinformation code that could be published as early as next Thursday and would force companies to share more data about how they tackle disinformation, according to a confidential report seen by the Financial Times. 

The EU’s anti-disinformation code is the latest attempt by EU regulators to rein in the power of Big Tech companies, and it is a prelude of what is probably coming with the recently approved Digital Services Act (DSA). Most of the large tech companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, TikTok and Microsoft, will join the EU’s code. While this code isn’t new — it was first introduced in 2018 as a voluntary code — the concessions made by the tech companies are key to understanding the impact it could have. 

First, companies will need to disclose how they are removing, blocking or curbing harmful content in advertising and in the promotion of content. Second, online platforms will have to develop tools and partnerships with fact-checkers to tackle “harmful disinformation,” and in some cases that may include taking down information. Third, big tech companies will also be forced to provide a country-by-country breakdown of their efforts, rather than providing global or Europe-wide data. 

“To respond to disinformation effectively, there is a need for country and language-specific data,” said Vera Jourova, EU’s vice-president for values and transparency in charge of the code. “We know disinformation is different in every country, and the big platforms will now have to provide meaningful data that would allow us to understand better the situation on the country level.”

The companies that sign the code will have six months to implement their measures. 

Digital Services Act 

The EU’s anti-disinformation code may lay the foundation for the content moderation rules that will be imposed through the DSA, a piece of legislation that will force Big Tech to monitor their platforms and remove illegal content. While this code is voluntary, it will be closely linked to the DSA as this legislation foresees the creation of codes of conduct to inform companies how to comply with the new content moderation rules.  

The DSA does not establish in the law how companies should identify and remove illegal content, and it explains that it will provide further guidance in secondary legislation or through codes of conduct. Thus, the updated EU disinformation code may be key to know what Big Tech would have to do to comply with the DSA and avoid hefty fines (up to 6% of global turnover). 

Read More: EU Nails Down Content Rules of Digital Services Act 

Elon Musk and Bots 

Elon Musk had claimed in the past that his plans for Twitter will be aligned with the EU’s view on content moderation and freedom of expression. Interestingly, the EU’s disinformation code may bring some good news for him because one of the requirements the code will impose on Big Tech, including Twitter, is to provide detailed data about the number of bots removed and the artificial intelligence systems deployed to weed out fake news. While this information may not be readily available before the parties complete the transaction, if at all, it may give Elon Musk arguments to get this information from Twitter’s board. 

Read More: Will an Elon Musk-Led Twitter Find Friend or Foe With EU Regulators? 

 UK Debates Online Safety Bill 

U.K. Lawmakers held several hearings last week, and they will continue this week to discuss the Online Safety Bill, a similar bill to the European DSA that seeks to force Big Tech companies to remove illegal and harmful content. Policymakers are discussing all the provisions of the law, and they are expected to report to the House with possible amendments by Thursday, June 30.  

The Online Safety Bill also foresees the creation of a code of conduct to determine how Big Tech companies should comply with the legislation. 

Read More: UK Tech Regulator Warns of High Cost of Internet Bill Compliance for Small Business