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Fifth set of reports – Fighting COVID-19 disinformation Monitoring Programme

Today, the Commission publishes a fifth set of reports provided by the signatories of the Code of Practice on Disinformation as part of the COVID-19 monitoring and reporting programme. The reports highlight actions taken in November 2020 to curb disinformation on COVID-19.

The monitoring programme, set up under the 10 June 2020 Joint Communication “Tackling COVID-19 disinformation - Getting the facts right”, is a transparency measure to ensure the public accountability of the signatories of the Code of Practice on Disinformation. Today’s reports focus on actions taken in November 2020 by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and TikTok to limit online disinformation related to COVID-19.

Fighting COVID-19 vaccines disinformation

Following up on the request of the Commission, platforms continued to highlight actions taken to fight disinformation and misinformation around COVID-19 vaccines. The signatories of the Code reported on some additional measures taken, aiming to build resilience against the spread of disinformation on COVID-19 vaccines and thus increase public preparedness for vaccines distribution.

In particular:

  • In line with a public announcement in December, Google reported that, as countries approve vaccines and enact their vaccination plans, Search will surface lists of authorised vaccines along with information panels, and YouTube will add authoritative vaccination information from local health authorities to its COVID-19 panels.
  • Twitter reported that its #ThereIsHelp prompt can be used by Member State authorities to include a specific link regarding COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Microsoft reported that COVID-19 vaccine-related queries on Bing surface content developed by the EU on COVID-19 vaccines.
  • TikTok reported that it has expanded its Project Halo campaign to include doctors and researchers from the EU, including from France, Italy and Spain, who explain their work regarding the development of vaccines, providing content in local languages.
  • While this was not part of their November report, Facebook announced in December that it will remove false claims about COVID-19 vaccines that have been debunked by health experts.

Further reporting for November 

The reports indicate continuing efforts by the platform signatories to address disinformation around the COVID-19 by:

  • promoting authoritative information sources through various tools;
  • working to limit the appearance or reduce the prominence of content containing false or misleading information;
  • increasing efforts to limit manipulative behaviour on their services;
  • enhancing collaborations with fact-checkers and researchers, and increasing the visibility of content that is fact-checked;
  • providing grants and free ad space to governmental and international organisations to promote campaigns and information on the pandemic;  
  • funding media literacy actions and actions to sustain good journalism; and
  • taking actions to limit the flow of advertising linked to COVID-19 disinformation.

The reports provide some quantitative data illustrating these actions and their impact through November 2020. Some examples:

  • Microsoft reported that in November 2020 more than 27 million visitors, including over 3.6 million from EU countries, made COVID-related inquires on Bing, and were presented with search results from authoritative, trustworthy sources.
  • Facebook stressed that during the month of November, it removed over 360.000 pieces of content on Facebook and Instagram globally, including over 35.000 pieces of content in the EU, for containing misinformation that may lead to imminent physical harm, such as content relating to fake preventative measures or exaggerated cures.
  • In November, TikTok provided new data on the users’ engagement with the “Learn the Facts about Covid-19” tags it applies to videos related to COVID-19. While the number of impressions in TikTok’s four bigger markets in the EU has been similar on average, Click-Through-Rates per market vary: 8.2% in Italy, 4.2% in Spain, 3.3% in France and 9.3% in Germany.
  • Google observed that fact-checkers have tended to focus on health misinformation during the pandemic, and  it reported that fact checks on all topics published by organisations in the EU27 Member States appear in Google Search about 6 million times a week on average, generating more than 300 million impressions from January to November 2020.

The reports published today, along with those published as part of the monitoring programme, provide a good overview of the evolution of the measures put in place by the platforms to limit the spread of COVID-19 disinformation and demonstrate a commitment to provide more transparency and public accountability.  At the same time more data is needed. In particular, EU- or Member State-level data for some indicators identified in the Joint Communication, and more granular data quantifying the impact of the measures taken – for example, the effectiveness of labelling systems in encouraging users to seek out authoritative content on COVID-19. The reports would also benefit from more detailed information on the measures related to false or misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines. In light of the continuing pandemic and ongoing roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines, the Commission is in contact with the platforms regarding these aspects as well as the continuation of the reporting and monitoring programme into 2021.

Other reports

Downloads

Facebook COVID-19 report - December 2020
Download 
Google COVID-19 report - December 2020
Download 
MIcrosoft COVID-19 report - December 2020
Download 
TikTok COVID-19 report - December 2020
Download 
Twitter COVID-19 report - December 2020
Download 

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