Today, the Commission services announce that the COVID-19 disinformation monitoring programme set up under the 10 June 2020 Joint Communication will continue until the end of the year. The report submissions will switch to a bi-monthly basis, while platforms shall still include information on the actions taken each month with the corresponding data, as done so far. After the current phase concludes in July, the next set of reports will be delivered in September 2021.
The continuation of the monitoring programme is necessary as the vaccination campaigns throughout the EU is proceeding with a steady and increasing pace, and the upcoming months will be decisive to reach a high level of vaccination in Member States. It is key that in this important period vaccine hesitancy is not fuelled by harmful disinformation.
The Commission services acknowledge the efforts done by the signatories of the Code of Practice made so far in the framework of the monitoring programme. The programme and the information included in the reports provide useful information about the actions taken by the platforms to limit COVID-19 related disinformation. It has also provided valuable insight regarding the functioning of the Code, in particular regarding its monitoring, and the lessons learned fed feed into the recently published Guidance. At the same time, while recognising certain improvements in this regard, in line with the Guidance, the Commission services continue to call on the signatories to take further steps to improve the quality of the reporting and data provided. In particular, it invites to provide more granular data on the impact of the policies put in place at Member State level.
The Commission services also publish today the latest set of the signatories’ reports. They focus on actions taken to limit COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines disinformation in April 2021.
Fighting COVID-19 vaccines disinformation
Platforms report on their updated policies regarding COVID-19 vaccines disinformation in April, which include
- Twitter introduced COVID-19 vaccines prompts with Public Service Announcements delivering factual information about COVID-19 vaccines, which appeared on users’ home timeline during World Immunisation Week in 16 countries. It also held conversations on vaccines with ECDC and EMA that received an average of 5.188.759 impressions, providing users with more ways to have access to reliable important vaccine information.
- TikTok’s report keeps on providing very useful data on its measures and the relevant user engagement. In particular, TikTok reports applying COVID vaccine tag to 7256 videos in the EU during the month of April, a slight decrease compared to the previous month (-431), while interestingly in some markets (Italy and Spain), clicks and impressions on the same tag more than doubled compared to the previous month.
- Facebook reports on measures taken to inform and encourage people to get vaccinated by launching “COVID-19 vaccine frames”, and supporting equitable access to vaccines by amplifying trusted messengers, promoting reliable information to low responsive communities, and providing funding, insights and tools for equitable vaccines distribution. Unfortunately, while these innovative actions are very promising, most of these actions are not targeted to EU countries yet.
- Microsoft reports that users entering the search term "coronavirus" or “#covid” redirects to the LinkedIn official page on COVID-19, displaying current information and broadcasts from verified international sources, and including official information about vaccines and vaccination. Microsoft does not provide any engagement or country specific data related to the LinkedIn official COVID-19 page, which would offer more detailed insights into the impact on European citizens.
- Google reports that the Ad Grants offered to public authorities, as of April 2021, have generated 470M impressions and 83M clicks, providing important health information, including on vaccines, across the EU. However, Google’s report does not include information on interactions with the tags or banners put in place, or specific metrics related to their specific google.com/covid-19 website, which would offer additional insights into the efficacy and impact of the measures.
Further reporting for April
The reports provide further information illustrating actions taken to fight COVID-19 related disinformation and the impact of these actions through April 2021. Some examples from the reports:
- TikTok reports applying a COVID tag to 59206 videos, a sensible decrease of the number of the through the EU in April (- 24292), with the biggest drop in the Italian market (- 5130). In the same timeframe, interactions with the COVID-19 center page show no significant variations compared to the month of March.
- Twitter reports that since updating their policies to respond to the pandemic last year, it has challenged 11.7 million accounts, suspended 1155 accounts, and removed over 32800 Tweets worldwide. Of those, in the month of April it challenged 2779 accounts, suspended 260 accounts, and removed 5091 pieces of content globally.
- Google reported taking action against 10549 URLs on AdSense, a significantly increase compared to March (+1378), with the most remarkable increase in actions in France (+960). At the same time, the numbers of ads and ad accounts rejected for violation of COVID advertising policies are in line with those of March.
- Microsoft reports that in April 2021, the Bing COVID experience had 2150314 visitors in the EU, a sensible decrease compared to March (- 491835). Also, Microsoft Advertising prevented 1527926 ads violating its ads policies (including on COVID-19 and vaccines) reaching users in the EU.
- Facebook reports a twofold increase in the number of visits of Facebook’s COVID-19 Information Center in the EU from March to April 2021, from 15M to 31M. Also, Facebook reported removing 47 thousand pieces of content in the EU for violating COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation policies, a slight decrease from the previous month.