Publication of baseline reports by the European Commission in order to limit COVID-19-related online disinformation

Publication of baseline reports by the European Commission in order to limit COVID-19-related online disinformation

20 November, 2020

In the light of the rise of disinformation campaigns, especially since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission has published several sets of reports provided by the online platform signatories of the Code of Practice on Disinformation as part of the COVID-19 monitoring and reporting programme. This programme is a transparency measure called for in the Joint Communication “Tackling COVID-19 disinformation – Getting the facts right” which was published in June 2020. Its aim is to ensure accountability towards the public by reporting on the efforts made by online platforms, among others, in order to limit online disinformation related to COVID-19.

This transparency effort already started prior to the pandemic: the Commission began to closely monitor the actions of online platforms (such as Google, Facebook or Microsoft) in 2018, under the Code of Practice on Disinformation – the self-regulatory commitment of online platforms, social networks or the advertising industry to address the spread of online disinformation. The signatories of the code are encouraged to report monthly on their actions to fight COVID-19-related disinformation.

In this framework, the Commission presented on the 10th of September the first set of baseline reports. These reports showed that the platforms signatories have stepped up their efforts in combating disinformation, for instance in deploying new tools and services to facilitate access to reliable content, and actions against false and misleading content.

The second set, which was published on the 7th of October, showed, among others, that platforms kept increasing the visibility of authoritative information sources.

Finally, the third set, published on the 6th of November, gives a good overview of the actions taken by the online platforms during the month of September in order to remove misleading and false content. It also demonstrates their willingness to provide increased transparency around their policies on COVID-19-related disinformation.

However, the Commission highlighted that the reporting still lacks sufficient EU- or Member State-level data corresponding to some indicators identified in the Joint Communication. Therefore, efforts still need to be made in this regard.

The reports can be consulted here.