Policy Brief - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: How Platforms Are Prioritising Some EU Member States in Their COVID-19 Disinformation Responses

Meyer, T., Alaphilippe, A. & Pershan. C. 2021. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: How Platforms Are Prioritising Some EU Member States in Their COVID-19 Disinformation Responses. EU Disinfolab Blog. 28 April 2021.

In this article, we map, compare and analyse the monthly COVID-19 disinformation monitoring reports that platforms have submitted to the European Commission as part of their commitment to the Fighting COVID-19 Disinformation Monitoring Programme. This monitoring and reporting programme was established from the 2020 Joint Communication “Tackling COVID-19 disinformation – Getting the facts right” to ensure transparency and accountability among platforms and industry signatories to the Code and to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 related disinformation online. For additional assessment of the effectiveness of this reporting programme, see our publication from February: “One Year Onward: Platform Responses to COVID-19 and US Elections Disinformation in Review”.  Here, in an effort to assess the commitments of platform signatories towards member states, we focus on the references in the reports to country-level actions to address COVID-19 related disinformation

Our four take-aways are:

  • Platform country-level responses focus on prioritizing and amplifying credible content through information displays and free advertising space.
  • Platform country-level responses also focus, but to a lesser extent, on media literacy campaigns and fact-checking partnerships.
  • Platform responses that limit the spread of content or accounts are not country specific.
  • A handful of big member states are prioritised while others are neglected.

Our three action points are:

  • Harmonise the reporting. This should include an obligation to clearly highlight new actions in order to facilitate analysis and transparency. 
  • Require signatories to provide country-specific metrics, especially regarding the audience of disinformation, engagement (clickthrough rate, etc.), funding of in-country fact-checking or research activities, and indicators of the prevalence and strength of in-country civil society relationships.
  • Establish a register of beneficiaries of ad-credits detailing amounts granted, spent, as well as report on the impact of these policies.