EU to launch an investigation into Facebook and Instagram for failing to counter Russian disinformation

EU officials are particularly concerned about the way Meta’s social media platforms are countering Russia’s attempts to influence the June European Parliament elections.

The European Union will launch an investigation into Facebook and Instagram as it fears that Meta Corporation, which owns these platforms, is not doing enough to counter disinformation from Russia and other countries. The Financial Times reports this, citing two sources familiar with the matter.

Regulators suspect that Meta’s social media moderation is not effective enough to stop the spread of political advertising that risks undermining the election process. The sources say that EU officials are particularly concerned about how the corporation’s social media platforms are countering Russia’s efforts to influence the June European Parliament elections.

This week, we expect the European Commission to announce the start of the inspection. However, we expect the announcement to only mention the manipulation of information by foreign actors without singling out Russia.

As the publication has found out, European officials also fear that the Meta mechanism, which allows users to flag illegal content, is not easy or user-friendly enough to comply with the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA). This law requires platforms to report on measures taken to combat disinformation or propaganda. 

The investigation will assess whether the posting of political content on Facebook and Instagram complies with the law. Investigators will examine Meta’s ability to reduce risks as it prepares to discontinue its use of CrowdTangle, a tool that displays content sharing patterns on the site and aids in identifying bot networks.

The FT points out that there is no set timeframe for completing the investigation, which will depend on Meta’s willingness to cooperate. The commission expects the corporation to report on the problem’s solution within five business days, failing which it will face sanctions under the DSA.

If Meta continues to violate the law, the corporation may face a fine equal to 6% of its global annual turnover.

In response to the surge in attacks, Meta announced in February that it would establish a team to counteract disinformation and misuse of generative artificial intelligence ahead of the European Parliament elections scheduled for early June this year.

“For content that doesn’t violate these particular policies, we work with independent fact-checking organisations — 26 partners across the EU covering 22 languages  — who review and rate content. We are currently expanding the programme in Europe with 3 new partners in Bulgaria, France, and Slovakia”, Meta said in a statement.

This week, the representatives of France, Germany, and Poland called for increased joint efforts to protect against disinformation operations by foreign actors associated with Russia. 

“Russian interference, war in Ukraine, support for democracy—in the face of these challenges, Europe must be ambitious”, French Minister Delegate for Europe Jean-Noël Barrot wrote in a statement. He expressed the unity of France, Germany, and Poland in their determination to make their voices heard in the EU.

The French agency Viginum, tasked with combating foreign digital interference, has identified 31 new disinformation websites. Investigators report that all the domains, created between March 20 and 26, are part of the Portal Kombat information network, aimed at nearly all EU member states.

The French watchdog for countering foreign influence, Viginum, announced in February 2024 the exposure of a Russian special operation known as Portal Kombat, in which a network of Russian websites disseminated Kremlin propaganda about Russia’s war in Ukraine, targeting European audiences with the intention of undermining the EU’s support for Kyiv.

In April, the French watchdog for countering foreign influence, Viginum, exposed several other Russian information operations aimed at different countries.

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