Commissioners demand hard numbers from firm ahead of European parliament elections
Facebook has repeatedly withheld key data on its alleged efforts to clamp down on disinformation ahead of the European elections. Mark Zuckerberg’s company has been under fire from the European commission for failing to provide it with the “hard numbers” to prove that it was living up to promises made in a voluntary code of conduct. The commission has also complained that the world’s largest social network had, despite its pledges, only set up “fact checkers” – with the job of scrutinising information shared on the site – in eight of the EU’s 28 member states. The company’s vice-president of global affairs and communications, the former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, had claimed in January that Facebook had made mistakes in the past but was now entering a “new phase of reform, responsibility and change”.
Under the EU code, the web firms are encouraged to disrupt revenue for accounts and sites misrepresenting information, clamp down on fake accounts and bots, and give prominence to more reliable sources of news while improving the transparency of funding of political advertising. EU sources said the sector was not raising its game but that Facebook was by far the worst offender of those being assessed, offering only “patchy” information on its efforts.
The EU’s security commissioner, Sir Julian King, and digital economy commissioner, Mariya Gabriel, writing in the Guardian ahead of publication of the progress report, warn that the companies have only “fallen further behind” since last month’s first report. The lack of hard numbers is particularly worrying.“Facebook has again failed to provide all necessary information, including any data on its actions in January on scrutiny of ad placements or efforts to disrupt advertising and monetisation incentives for those behind disinformation.”
The EU’s executive arm welcomed Facebook’s recent decision to “share more information about political advertising on its platform with so-called ‘good faith’ researchers and organisations working on increasing transparency for the public”.But pointed out that they still need to live up to the standards.
There are deep concerns that elections to the European parliament in May could be the target of manipulation in a similar manner to the US presidential election and the UK’s Brexit referendum.
The commissioners did not hold back against the other two companies neither: Twitter and Google.