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Reports on September and October actions - Fighting COVID-19 Disinformation Monitoring Programme

The Commission publishes today the latest reports that platform signatories of the Code of Practice on Disinformation issue about their ongoing efforts to limit COVID-19 and vaccine disinformation. In view of the evolution of the pandemic, the Programme will continue into 2022.

As the pandemic is still not over, and infection rates are surging all over Europe, the Commission has asked online platforms to continue reporting on actions taken to curb COVID-19 mis- and disinformation. The monitoring programme shall continue until June 2022, when it will be assessed if further prolongation is necessary.

The online platforms reports are delivered in the context of the COVID-19 disinformation monitoring programme set up under the 10 June 2020 Joint Communication. They provide updated information about actions taken by the Code’s signatories in September and October 2021 to fight COVID-19 and vaccines related disinformation on their services.

Fighting COVID-19 vaccines disinformation

Platforms report on their updated policies and initiatives to reduce the spread of COVID-19 vaccines disinformation in September and October, for example:

  • Twitter reports updating and expanding its COVID-19 prompts to provide reliable information on COVID-19 and vaccines in partnership with EU Member States. Users looking for terms related to Coronavirus and Vaccines will be directed to the dedicated pages on the relevant national public health agency’s website. In October, Twitter updated a bilingual COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines prompt in Belgium (NL/FR), in partnership with the Federal Public Service for Health.
    Twitter updated its COVID-19 misleading information policy regarding vaccines misleading information , pledging to label or place a warning on Tweets that advance unsubstantiated rumours, disputed claims, as well as incomplete or out-of-context information about vaccines. Tweets which advance harmful false or misleading narratives about COVID-19 vaccinations will continue to be removed. The COVID-19 vaccines public service announcement (PSA) that comes up when opening Twitter has been reactivated in 14 markets, including Spain and Ireland.
  • TikTok increased the number of keywords/hashtags that can trigger tags and banners related to COVID-19 and Vaccines. TikTok reports supporting the vaccination campaigns with several initiatives to raise awareness and confidence in COVID-19 vaccines among young people, specifically in Spain and Germany.
  • Microsoft reports on the feature that places “answers” and “public service announcements” on top of the search results in Bing, including a vaccine tracker indicating the progress of vaccination in individual countries and globally. LinkedIn’s official page on COVID-19 and vaccines is regularly updated to provide authoritative information and prevent misinformation on vaccines. LinkedIn reports widening the collaboration with influencers to spread positive and authoritative messages about vaccination, specifically in Spain and the Netherlands.
  • Google reported thatit is working with authorities to make sure that in Search additional information on COVID-19 vaccine availability comes up when users search for vaccine-related information. In addition to giving users more information on the general availability of the vaccine, this feature, now available in France, allows easy access to vaccination booking and includes an option to contact the authority. YouTube expanded his medical misinformation policy in October to include claims relating to vaccines that contradict expert consensus from local health authorities or the WHO. For example, YouTube will remove content with claims that the COVID-19 vaccine will kill people who receive it.
  • Meta/Facebook reports updating its policies on vaccines worldwide following the FDA’s authorisation in the US of COVID-19 vaccination for children, for example considering content claiming that vaccines does not exist for children, that vaccines for children are untested or unsafe for children as false. Also, Meta/Facebook reports on the results of the media literacy campaign launched in March “Together Against COVID-19 Misinformation", to educate people on how to spot false news regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. Users were shown a series of content created in collaboration with the WHO and fact-checking partners (Full Fact, Correctiv, Maldita, and Pagella Politica). The campaign’s impact showed that in France the campaign has reached 12,9 million users, in Poland 5,7 million users, and in Germany 9,2 million users.  

Further reporting for September and October

The reports provide further information illustrating actions taken to fight COVID-19 related disinformation and the impact of these actions through October 2021. Some examples from the reports:

  • Twitter suspended 254 accounts and removed 4 544 pieces of content globally in September, whereas in October 819 accounts were suspended and 3 574 pieces of content removed globally for violation of its COVID-19 misleading information policy. In September and October, Twitter halted and removed 84 Promoted Tweets according to its COVID-19 advertising policy, globally.
  • TikTok’s report shows that while the number of videos tagged with the Vaccine tag decreased, the number of videos with the COVID tag drastically increased: from 1 261 in August to 6 818 in September and 9 948 in October. This trend is the opposite than the previous two months when the number of videos with the vaccine tag increased and the COVID tagged ones decreased. TikTok also removed 686 videos violating its terms of service related to COVID-19 in September and 584 videos in October.
  • Microsoft reports that the Bing COVID-19 experience had an aggregate 4 003 694 views in the EU between September and October, a sensible decrease from August, but in line with the July figures (1 952 412 in September and 2 057 282 in October). On Microsoft Advertising, the number of ads violating the COVID ads policies blocked from reaching EU users reached 435 922 in September, and 909 713 in October.
  • Google reports taking actions against 19 338 URLs on AdSense (+ 2 859 compared to the previous period). The number of ads blocked or removed related to COVID-19 increased by more than 500 000 compared to the previous period, with the highest increase in Spain (+ 252 914).
  • Meta/Facebook reports that in the month of September 2021 over 120 000 pieces of content were removed in the EU for violating COVID-19 and vaccines misinformation policies on Facebook and Instagram (+10 000 compared to July). In October, this number increased to 140 000 pieces of content (-20 000 in comparison to August).

Downloads

Google COVID-19 Monitoring September October
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Meta COVID-19 Monitoring September October
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Microsoft COVID-19 Monitoring September October
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TikTok COVID-19 Monitoring September October
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Twitter COVID-19 Monitoring September October
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