European Commission Launches Investigation into Meta Platforms Over Election Disinformation

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The European Commission has initiated an investigation into Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, citing concerns about the proliferation of deceptive advertising and disinformation ahead of the European Parliament elections.

The move underscores growing apprehensions regarding the role of social media platforms in disseminating false information, both from external actors like Russia, China, and Iran, as well as within the EU itself, where some political entities resort to spreading falsehoods to sway voters.

Under the Digital Services Act, which came into effect last year, major tech companies are obligated to take more proactive measures in combating illegal and harmful content on their platforms, or face fines of up to 6% of their global annual turnover. Margrethe Vestager, the EU's digital chief, expressed concerns over Meta's moderation practices, citing potential inadequacies and lack of transparency in content moderation procedures and advertisement policies.

With over 250 million monthly active users in the European Union, Meta defended its risk mitigation processes but pledged cooperation with the European Commission's inquiry. However, the Commission highlighted suspicions that Meta may not be fulfilling its obligations under the Digital Services Act, particularly regarding the handling of deceptive advertisements, disinformation campaigns, and coordinated inauthentic behavior within the EU.

Additionally, the Commission raised concerns about the absence of an effective third-party real-time civic discourse and election-monitoring tool leading up to the European Parliament elections. Meta's decision to phase out its disinformation-tracking tool, CrowdTangle, without a suitable replacement also drew criticism.

Meta has been given five working days to outline remedial actions taken to address the Commission's concerns. The outcome of the investigation could have significant implications for the regulation of online content and the responsibilities of tech giants in combatting misinformation in the EU.

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