In the wake of Facebook’s recent data scandal, Brussels is getting tough on social media companies accused of spreading fake news.
According to the Financial Times, Brussels sent out a warning that scandals such as the one involving Facebook threaten to “subvert our democratic systems,” especially since such misinformation could undermine next year’s elections to the European Parliament.
Last month, it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, was able to access data on 50 million Facebook users beginning in 2014, which was then employed by the Trump campaign.
EU officials are worried the same thing might happen during next year's crucial elections, using platforms to spread conspiracy theories, false news and doctored videos.
Now Julian King, European commissioner for security, has sent a letter to Mariya Gabriel, commissioner for the digital economy, requesting a "clear game plan" for how social media sites will operate during election periods. Some of the specific information King is looking for includes the internal algorithms these social media sites use to promote stories, restrictions on the “harvesting” of personal data for political purposes, and who funds sponsored content on these websites.
“It is clear that the cybersecurity threat we are facing is changing from one primarily targeting systems to one that is also increasingly about deploying cyber means to manipulate behaviour, deepen societal divides, subvert our democratic systems and raise questions about our democratic institutions,” the letter states.
Brussels is just one EU member looking into “anti-fake news” laws. France is also working on legislation so that judges can remove and block false content during national election campaigns. French President Emmanuel Macron has warned about the “defamatory untruths” and “deceitful propaganda” of Russian-backed media organizations such as RT and Sputnik, which both have French-language websites.
And earlier this year, Germany introduced its first “hate speech law,” where platforms must quickly remove terrorist content, xenophobia and fake news. If not, they face fines of up to €50m.