Slovakia 2023 Election: combatting disinformation under DSA

The first parliamentary elections in Slovakia since the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) went into effect on September 1 will be held on September 30.

The DSA includes requirements for social media platforms to combat disinformation about politics, fake news, hate speech, and the use of these tactics for electoral manipulation.

Under the new regulations, Euractiv examined the actions of major social media platforms in the lead-up to the vote.

The Digital Single Act (DSA), the flagship law of the EU, which, among other things, aims to stop the spread of hate speech and misinformation online, went into effect on August 25 and places new requirements on platforms with more than 45 million monthly users.

Due to their popularity among voters and use for political propaganda, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok are under the spotlight as Slovakia gets closer to its elections.

Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner for the internal market, highlighted worries about “hybrid warfare unfolding on social media” during the Slovak 2023 election.

Before the DSA went into effect, social media in Slovakia had to deal with many instances of illegal content online, from COVID-19 disinformation to false information about NATO soldiers to pro-Russian propaganda to false reports of a purported “police coup” to the dissemination of hate speech.

In August, 56 civil society organizations sent a letter to the European Commission expressing their concerns about election tampering and urging the EU leaders to make sure enough content moderators are working in each European language.

According to YouTube, “moderation policies are implemented across dozens of languages, including Slovak,” according to Euractiv. TikTok maintains that it supports 40 languages by collaborating with “15 fact-checking organizations around the world,” in contrast to Facebook, which claims to have moderation squads working with 70 languages.

When a piece of content is reported to Facebook, YouTube, or TikTok, those platforms’ moderation teams review it for potential violations of their “community rules”.

For instance, YouTube will suspend an offending account for one week after the first infraction, two weeks after the second infraction within 90 days, and channel termination after the third infraction.

Every platform has safeguards against false information. According to TikTok’s policies, “coordinated attempts to influence or sway public opinion are not permitted.”

In June, YouTube terminated the far-right Slovak channel Kulturblog for violating the site’s community guidelines. TikTok still needs to implement the same changes on the channel, though.

The removal of online content was made transparent on all three video platforms, which is now required by EU law.

YouTube openly promotes its Google’s Treat Analysis Group Bulletin, noting, for instance, that 14 Slovak YouTube channels were shut down in June due to a planned influence and disinformation attempts from Russia.

The Slovak page on Facebook reports that it “restricted access to 162 items that represented Russian state-controlled media sources due to European Union-imposed sanctions” in its biannual Transparency Report.

However, for now, the “Community Guidelines Enforcement” reports from TikTok do not provide data granularity for Slovakia.

The DSA will “impose a series of other transparency obligations” by October 30, according to a representative for Europe.

According to the DSA, platforms must collaborate with fact-checking organizations by February 24, 2024.

Facebook and YouTube actively increased the scope of their fact-checking initiatives in Slovakia by collaborating with the native Slovak-speaking website

This knowledgeable, unbiased organization will alert Facebook and YouTube to hazardous content, which moderation staff will prioritize.

TikTok claims it does not permit “paid political promotion, political advertising, or fundraising by politicians and political parties” or “misinformation about civic and electoral processes, regardless of intent” on its homepage devoted to election integrity.

Facebook’s Facts In Focus initiative, which aims to teach people how to spot false information and respond to it, was started in Slovakia in July. Similarly, in September of last year, YouTube launched its Hit Pause campaign to educate Slovak viewers on how to spot manipulation techniques.

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