As part of a wider bid to clamp down on harmful content on the internet, the European Commission has urged major digital platforms to take measures to de-monetise disinformation online.
Disinformation should not occupy a “prominent place” online, said Věra Jourová, the Commission’s Vice-President for values and transparency.
If they were less visible, these types of content wouldn’t attract as much money in advertising revenue as they do now, she said on Wednesday (27 January) during a debate in the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee.
However, any decision by platforms to de-monetise online content should be made in full transparency, she added.
“Everything we want the platforms to do must be done in the way we can monitor,” Jourová said.
Speaking to lawmakers, the Czech EU commissioner reiterated the commitments outlined in the EU executive’s Democracy Action Plan, presented last year.
The plan broadly hones in on the importance of tackling fake news in the context of external interference and manipulation in elections.
Meanwhile, the Commission’s recently presented Digital Services Act puts forward a regulatory framework that will help to deliver on some of the objectives of the Democracy Action Plan.
“The core thing in the Digital Services Act and the European Democracy Action Plan relating to digital content is that we need to know more about what’s happening and we need to understand how the algorithms work, they must stop being black boxes.”
The Commission will issue guidance in spring, setting out how platforms need to step up their measures based on its assessment of an updated code of practice against disinformation, which is likely to include more specific benchmarks for platforms to adhere to de-monitise examples of harmful disinformation online.
On a related subject, Jourová once again reiterated the Commission’s concern at recent moves by Facebook and Twitter to expel former President Trump from their platforms.
Decisions of such gravity should not merely be in the hands of social networks, she stressed. They should “be based on the law, and not be based on their unilateral arbitrary decisions which stem…from internal terms and conditions.”
The platform’s responsibility in this regard could be clarified in the future under the Digital Services Act, the Commission says.
Senior Commission officials said recently that platforms can no longer take “key decisions by themselves alone without any supervision,” dialogue or accountability, adding that the DSA would try to rectify this imbalance.
Elsewhere in the ongoing debates over the Digital Services Act, the Parliament’s internal market committee appointed its rapporteur on Wednesday, giving Danish MEP Christel Schaldemose the tough task of heading up the file. Schaldemose is from the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) political group.
While it is widely tipped to be appointed as the lead committee on the DSA, the Parliament’s internal market committee is also likely to face challenges from the legal affairs committee to steer the file through the EU assembly.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]