Big Tech step up combat against vaccine fake news

The monthly reporting of online platforms on Civid-19 disinformation will continue until June

Photo: EU Věra Jourová.

The EU executive issued on Thursday the new reports by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, TikTok and Mozilla, signatories of the Code of Practice on Disinformation, on the evolution of the measures taken in January this year in fighting vaccine disinformation.

The Covid-19 disinformation monthly reporting programme has been recently extended and will continue until June as the crisis still unfolds. It is a deliverable under the 10 June 2020 Joint Communication to ensure accountability towards the public and discussions are ongoing on how to further improve the process.

Google expanded its search feature providing information and a list of authorised vaccines in user’s location in response to related searches in 23 EU countries. On 12 January, the company announced the launch of a new $3m Covid-19 Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund which will focus on projects that aim to broaden the audience of fact checks.

TikTok has provided quantitative data on the new vaccine tag rolled out in December for all videos with words or hashtags related to Covid-19 vaccines. The tag has been applied to 5087 videos in the EU, of which 996 in Italy, 1179 in France, 119 in Spain and 273 in Germany.

Microsoft co-sponsored the #VaxFacts campaign launched by NewsGuard providing a free browser extension protecting from coronavirus vaccines misinformation.

Twitter will remove the most harmful misleading information, and will label Tweets that contain potentially misleading information about vaccines. A vaccine prompt, in partnership with national or federal public health agencies or the WHO, is currently available in Belgium, France Germany, Ireland, and Spain.

On its part, Mozilla reported that curated authoritative content from its ‘read-it-later’ Pocket application gathered more than 5.8 billion impressions across the EU.

Online platforms need to take responsibility to prevent harmful and dangerous disinformation, both domestic and foreign, from undermining our common fight against the virus and the efforts towards vaccination, Věra Jourová, EC Vice-President for Values and Transparency, said adding that “platforms’ efforts alone will not suffice”.

According to her, it is also crucial to strengthen cooperation with public authorities, media and civil society to provide reliable information.

EU Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton commented that platforms’ response must be “diligent, robust and efficient” as disinformation poses a threat that needs to be taken seriously. He underscored that this is “particularly crucial now, when we are acting to win the industrial battle for all Europeans to have a fast access to safe vaccines”.

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