There is as yet very little known about legal measures specifically targeted at Covid-19 fake news, but fortunately, there are a great many initiatives relating to legal measures against fake news in general, that may also be deployed to combat Covid-19 fake news. 

Since June 2020, the EU has required Facebook, Twitter and Google to produce monthly reports on the fight against fake news on their platforms Facebook, Twitter, Google to report monthly on fake news fight, EU says | Reuters

In November 2017, the EU announced the formation of the East Stratcom taskforce to fight against ‘cyber-attacks and ‘fake news’.

A budget of EUR 1.1 million was freed up for the years 2018-2020, and a number of initiatives were launched in this area, an important one of which was the Communication from the European Commission entitled Tackling online-disinformation: a European Approach (European Commission, 2018). In this document, The European Commission calls for ‘online platforms to act swiftly and effectively to protect users from disinformation (pp. 8-10), and “to foster online accountability for online platforms” (pp. 11-12). This resulted in commitments from Facebook and Google to take steps to implement self-regulatory measures.

Moreover, an EU Code of Practice on Disinformation was compiled: “This code of principles is for organizations that regularly publish nonpartisan reports on the accuracy of statements by public figures, major institutions, and other widely circulated claims of interest to society. It is the result of consultations among fact-checkers from around the world and offers conscientious practitioners principles to aspire to in their everyday work.” Know more here.

This “code of principles” has been evaluated in a rather positive way in 2019, but it was also stated: “The main criticism of the Code relates to its self-regulatory nature, lack of uniformity of implementation – evidenced by the unevenness of progress made under the specific Pillar – monitoring, and lack of clarity around its scope and some of the key concepts.” (p. 4)

👁 See also: Code of Practice on Disinformation | Shaping Europe’s digital future (europa.eu)

Measures

📚 EU wants Facebook, Twitter en Google to report how they combat fake news

In June 2020, the EU required Facebook, Twitter and Google to report monthly on the fight against fake news on their platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Google to report monthly on fake news fight, EU says | Reuters

📚 Measures by FACEBOOK, GOOGLE and TWITTER

➡️ FACEBOOK

  • Misinformation Policy:

https://www.oversightboard.com/

Working to Stop Misinformation and False News (facebook.com) 7 april 2017

An Update on Our Work to Keep People Informed and Limit Misinformation About COVID-19 – About Facebook (fb.com) 16 april 2020

Keeping People Safe and Informed About the Coronavirus – About Facebook (fb.com) 18 december 2020

    ➡️ GOOGLE

    🔺 Using labels

    “Google introduced fact-check labels to Google News to allow publishers to highlight fact-checked content and help users find and consult more easily articles that provide a critical outlook on claims made by others. This feature helps support the work of the fact-checking community. This fact-checking feature first appeared in the UK and the US in October 2016 and has since been rolled out globally. Google has expanded the fact-checking labels to Google Search results, to allow publishers to provide greater awareness to users of the tools available to them to consider the accuracy of a story. These labels in Search make it easier for publishers to highlight their fact-checking work that shows users the origin of a claim and clearly display their verdict on the veracity of the claim. This work has been done in collaboration with the fact-check community, and started with sharethefacts.org a collaboration between the Duke University Report’s Lab and Jigsaw, a team within Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Share the Facts enables fact-checkers to more easily share the claims they looked at and their fact-check findings, and also makes it easier for others to highlight their fact checks, for example in Search results.”

    A multi-dimensional approach to disinformation. Report of the independent High level Group on fake news and online disinformation, p. 16 A multi-dimensional approach to disinformation – Publications Office of the EU (europa.eu) p.16

    “Over the last several years, fact checking has come into its own. Led by organizations like the International Fact-Checking Network, rigorous fact checks are now conducted by more than 100 active sites, according to the Duke University Reporter’s Lab. They collectively produce many thousands of fact-checks a year, examining claims around urban legends, politics, health, and the media itself.

    In the seven years since we started labeling types of articles in Google News (e.g., In-Depth, Opinion, Wikipedia), we’ve heard that many readers enjoy having easy access to a diverse range of content types. Earlier this year, we added a “Local Source” Tag to highlight local coverage of major stories. Today, we’re adding another new tag, “Fact check,” to help readers find fact checking in large news stories. You’ll see the tagged articles in the expanded story box on news.google.com and in the Google News & Weather iOS and Android apps, starting with the U.S. and the U.K.”

    Labeling fact-check articles in Google News (blog.google)


    search_example_1
    ➡️ TWITTER

    🔺 Finding reliable information


    “As the global community faces the COVID-19 pandemic together, Twitter is helping people find reliable information, connect with others, and follow what’s happening in real time. (…)”

    Coronavirus: Staying safe and informed on Twitter

    👁 See also:

    Singh, L., Bansal, S., Bode, L., Budak, C., Chi, G., Kawintiranon, K., … & Wang, Y. (2020). A first look at COVID-19 information and misinformation sharing on Twitter. arXiv preprint arXiv:2003.13907. 2003.13907.pdf (arxiv.org)

    Rodríguez, C. P., Carballido, B. V., Redondo-Sama, G., Guo, M., Ramis, M., & Flecha, R. (2020). False news around COVID-19 circulated less on Sina Weibo than on Twitter. How to overcome false information?. International and Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Sciences, 9(2), 107-128.

    📚 International reports

     European Commission (April, 2018). Bestrijding van online-desinformatie een Europese benadering.

    💻 https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/NL/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52018DC0236&from=nl

    European Commission (March, 2018). A multi-dimensional approach to disinformation. Report of the independent High level Group on fake news and online disinformation Retrieved from:

    💻 A multi-dimensional approach to disinformation – Publications Office of the EU (europa.eu)

    and

    💻 Communication – Tackling online disinformation: a European approach | Shaping Europe’s digital future (europa.eu)

    European Commission (2019). Study for the “Assessment of the implementation of the Code of Practice on Disinformation”.

    💻 Study for the assessment of the implementation of the Code of Practice on Disinformation | Shaping Europe’s digital future (europa.eu)

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