Coronavirus: Commission discusses disinformation with online platforms, launches dedicated webpage to support myth busting and fact checking on the pandemic

Following her first meeting with online platforms at the beginning of March, Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, held a conference call on Friday with Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Mozilla and trade association EDiMA to receive an update on the spread of disinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic. The platforms, all signatories of the Code of Practice on Disinformation, informed that the steps they have taken during the last weeks contributed to increased access to authoritative information (such as WHO or national health authorities), as well as to demotion and removal of harmful content. The platforms confirmed that they observe a constant flow of false and harmful information, mainly related to health, which they remove in large quantities. Similarly, they have put the measures in place to remove ads related to protective equipment such as masks. However gaps remain in fully enforcing these new policies. The Vice-President urged the companies to share relevant data with the research and fact-checking community, as well as to work together with authorities in all Member States and to share samples of removed content, including with the Commission. Following the discussion, Vice-President Jourová said: “I welcome strong measures taken by platforms and support the approach focussing on facilitating access to authoritative sources while tackling harmful content and exploitative or misleading ads. But more needs to be done, both by platforms and authorities alike. Platforms need to step up efforts to fully enforce their new policies and offer more evidence that their measures are working. It is also equally important to step up our analytical capacity and coordinate better the response to harmful information.” Platforms noted a spike in traffic to authoritative sources notably on health issues, underlining the need for maintaining high quality of such content in all languages. Since the outbreak of the crisis, the Commission has launched a dedicated coronavirus response website. Today, it also launches a dedicated section on fighting disinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic, providing materials for myth busting and fact checking. In parallel, the European External Action Service has also been working on analysing and exposing the spread of disinformation about the pandemic from external sources and actors; more information is available on the website.