Coronavirus vaccine disinformation: new reports from online platforms to inform Code of Practice revamp

The Commission publishes today the new reports by Twitter, TikTok, Google, and Microsoft on measures they took in February 2021 against vaccine disinformation as signatories of the Code of Practice on Disinformation. Věra Jourová, Vice-President for Values and Transparency, said: “Disinformation erodes our democratic debate. Transparency is a pre-condition to understand and counter online disinformation and the reports go in the right direction. Going further, we will revamp the code of practice against disinformation with practical guidance and a permanent monitoring framework.” Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, added: “Vaccination is our utmost priority for Europeans. Fighting disinformation on COVID-19 vaccines is essential to complement our production and vaccination efforts. Safe and efficient vaccines are being produced and administered in Europe and we cannot let disinformation undermine trust. Platforms have a responsibility in this regard and they have to live up to this responsibility.” The reports show that Twitter updated its COVID-19 search prompts in the EU to include authoritative information on vaccines, and activated the hashtag #Vaccinated ✌ in 24 languages for users to show their support for vaccination. TikTok launched a new feature placing a banner across videos warning users they may contain unverified content and prompting a message before they share the flagged video. Google’s Search feature, showing reliable information on vaccines and statistics in response to related searches, is now active in all 27 EU countries and YouTube removed 30,000 videos that included claims contradicting consensus among health authorities. Microsoft’s Bing search engine deployed a new feature showing countries’ vaccination progress, and the Bing COVID-19 experience had more than 2,300,000 visits. The Commission is in continuous contact with the platforms to further address the large amount of vaccine disinformation that keeps circulating online and fine-tune the monitoring process, including on the impact of the signatories policies also to ensure sufficient transparency and public accountability. To this end, the Commission will issue guidance in spring aiming at strengthening the Code of practice and building the bridge with the future Digital Services Act obligations, as set out in its European Democracy Action Plan.