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Google, Facebook, Twitter must do more against fake news: EU

Updated January 30, 2019

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Companies should make tools limiting disinformation available to everyone across EU, says European Commission. ─ File photo
Companies should make tools limiting disinformation available to everyone across EU, says European Commission. ─ File photo

BRUSSELS: Google, Face­book, Twitter and Mozilla must do more to combat fake news as Europeans head tow­ards an election or the companies will face the threat of re­­gulatory action, the Euro­pe­­an Commission said on Tuesday.

Companies and trade bodies representing the advertising industry signed up to a voluntary code of conduct in October to ward off more he­­avy-handed legislation. Cri­tics say not enough has been done since they signed up.

The European Union’s executive said signatories to the code of practice had taken steps to remove fake accounts and limit sites promoting fake news but said more was needed.

“Now they should make sure these tools are available to everyone across the EU, monitor their efficiency, and continuously adapt to new means used by those spreading disinformation. There is no time to waste,” EU Com­m­­­­­issioner for the Digital Sin­g­­le Market Andrus Ansip said.

European Parliament will hold elections in May while Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Poland, Por­­­t­­ugal and Ukraine all go to the polls in coming months.

Russia has faced allegations — which it denies — of spreading false information to influence the US presidential election and Britain’s referendum on European Union membership in 2016, as well as Germany’s national election in 2017.

The commission called on Facebook to provide more clarity on how it uses its tools to fight fake news and told Google to expand its actions to more EU countries.

It said Twitter should provide more details on its measures while it said Mozilla’s online browser should have more information on how it would limit details about users’ browsing activities.

Google said it had anno­unced several measures such as disclosing whether political organisations were paying for European parliamentary election advertisements.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2019