EU plans crackdown on fake news in social media

European Commissioner for Security Julian King wants a "clear game plan" for how social media firms can operate during sensitive election periods.
European Commissioner for Security Julian King wants a "clear game plan" for how social media firms can operate during sensitive election periods.

BRUSSELS • Brussels is preparing to crack down on social media companies which have been accused of spreading fake news, issuing a stark warning that scandals such as the Facebook data leak threaten to "subvert our democratic systems", the Financial Times reported.

Sir Julian King, European Commissioner for Security, is demanding a "clear game plan" for how social media companies can operate during sensitive election periods - starting with the European Parliament polls in May next year.

A letter dated March 19 from Mr King to Ms Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for the Digital Economy, calls for more transparency on the algorithms that Internet platforms use to promote stories, limits on the "harvesting" of personal information for political purposes, and disclosure by technology companies of who funds "sponsored content" on their websites, FT said.

Mr King proposes a "more binding approach" than self-regulation, including "clearly and carefully defined performance indicators".

His proposals have backing from the other commissioners who are drawing up the EU's first policy on how to fight "online disinformation" to be published later this month, reported FT.

The drive to counter disinformation and conspiracy theories has gained momentum after news broke last month that British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had gained access to the personal data of about 50 million Facebook users, and the data may have been used to try to influence Britain's vote to leave the EU and the United States presidential election.

Facebook now faces multiple investigations in both Europe and the US.

But critics of the EU commission's approach say it could backfire if the EU ends up shutting down legitimate debate - or is successfully portrayed by its opponents as doing so, FT reported.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2018, with the headline 'EU plans crackdown on fake news in social media'. Print Edition | Subscribe