The monitoring programme is a transparency measure called for in the 10 June 2020 Joint Communication “Tackling COVID-19 disinformation - Getting the facts right”. Its aim is to ensure accountability towards the public, by reporting on the efforts made by platforms and relevant industry associations to limit online disinformation related to COVID-19. Today’s reports focus on actions taken in September 2020 by the Code’s platform signatories, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and TikTok.
The reports indicate continuing efforts by the platform signatories to address disinformation around the COVID-19, including:
- the promotion of authoritative information sources through various tools, such as COVID-19 panels, popups, information centres and hubs;
- work to limit the appearance or reduce the prominence of content containing false or misleading information through updates to terms of service and application of machine and human controls to demote or remove content violating service terms, including content liable to cause physical harm or impair public health policies;
- collaborations with fact-checkers and researchers and increased visibility of content that is fact-checked;
- the provision of grants and free ad space to governmental and international organisations to promote campaigns and information on the pandemic as well as funding for media literacy actions and actions to sustain good journalism;
- actions to limit the flow of advertising linked to COVID-19 disinformation;
- efforts to limit manipulative behaviour on their services.
The reports provide some quantitative data illustrating these actions and their impact through September 2020. For example:
- Health content from EU governments and public authorities supported by Google’s ad grants generated 269 million impressions and 46 million clicks as of September 2020.
- In September 2020, Microsoft prevented more than 2 million advertiser submissions trying to exploit the COVID-19 crisis for commercial gain from being displayed to users in European markets. . From 1 September to 30 September 2020, Bing had almost 3.5 million visitors from EU countries whose COVID-19 related search queries presented them with authoritative information from trustworthy sources.
- Facebook and Instagram reported on their expanded their fact-checking network, which now includes 37 fact-checking partners in the EU and greater Europe, covering 26 languages. Based on their work, Facebook and Instagram displayed misinformation warning screens associated with COVID-19 related fact-checks on over 4.4 million pieces of content in EU Member States in September.
- Twitter reported that, from 1 September 2020 to 30 September 2020, 1.263 Promoted Tweets violated the platform’s COVID-19 policies. About 93% of the violating content was detected by automated systems, with approximately 7% brought into human review and rejected for policy violations.
- Overall, TikTok has tagged over 7 million videos with words, hashtags or music related to COVID-19, attaching a ‘sticker’ with the message ‘Learn the facts about Covid-19” that redirects users to trusted, verifiable information sources. In September, it attached the sticker to more than 47.000 videos across its four major European markets (Germany, France, Italy and Spain), while blocking more than 700 videos related to COVID-19 in violation of their policies and containing medical misinformation.
The reports continue to give a good overview of actions taken by the platform signatories to the Code of Practice on Disinformation, and demonstrate their willingness to provide increased transparency around their policies on COVID-19 disinformation. However, the reporting still lacks sufficient EU- or Member State-level data corresponding to some indicators identified in the Joint Communication. More granular data, including data on impact (e.g., engagement with tools to improve user awareness), is needed to improve transparency and public accountability and enable consistent monitoring of the implementation and impact of the platforms’ policies and actions in the EU.