eco on new EU Measures: Combating Disinformation on the Internet is a Social Problem

The EU Commission presented new measures to combat disinformation in connection with the Corona virus on 10 June 2020. With the new guidelines, operators of social networks are now to report monthly on how they deal with false information about the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, they are to provide detailed information on how many misleading posts and false user accounts they have discovered and how extensive their reach was. The Association of the Internet Industry welcomes the approach of the EU Commission to tackle the problem of disinformation in connection with COVID-19. In general, eco considers self-regulation measures and the teaching of media competence to be the best way to combat misinformation online in the long term: This is the only way promising measures can be tried out and processes constantly adapted. At the same time, the proposed measures once again outsource responsibility for disinformation content first and foremost to the platform operators, without a clear definition of what constitutes “disinformation” in which context or is to be assessed as such.

This is what eco Chair Oliver J. Süme says:

“It is good and important that the large platforms fulfill their duty to constantly improve their procedures for detecting disinformation and to adapt them to the constantly changing technical developments and social conditions. First, however, a common understanding is needed of when and in what context we speak of disinformation. Only when these questions have been clarified will it be possible for social network operators to effectively combat disinformation. The platforms urgently need legal certainty here, especially against the background of possible liability issues. In principle, the spread of disinformation on the Internet is a social problem. Therefore, we must also find solutions to combat the problem on a societal level in order to achieve sustainable effects here.”

In the view of the association, an improved and more targeted communication of media competence among all EU citizens of all age groups could help to raise awareness with regard to false reports within social networks. “The European Commission must not only discuss new measures for companies, but – together with the Member States – must also urgently take measures to strengthen media literacy, so that Internet users are enabled to identify dubious sources and verify factual claims, as well as being sensitised to the possible consequences of the thoughtless dissemination of disinformation”, Süme said.

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