Google, Facebook and Twitter must take “serious further steps” to clamp down on disinformation spreading on their platforms by year-end or they could face hard rules, the European Commission warned Tuesday.

The EUs executive arm also praised the platforms for their efforts to fight fake news as part of an annual review, noting that Facebook removed more than 2 billion fake profiles in the first quarter of the year.

But Julian King, in charge of security at the Commission, warned that it is no longer sufficient for platforms to “mark their own homework” when it comes to disinformation that has tarred election campaigns around the world and fueled a backlash against Silicon Valley.

“If were really going to make progress on this, then were going to have to have a step-change in the amount of outside scrutiny that platforms are willing to tolerate,” King said.

If the platforms fail to improve their record by year-end, the Commission may step forward with “regulatory or co-regulatory measures,” he added.

One possibility for regulation is that platforms might be compelled to share their data more openly.

The warning to Silicon Valley comes days after Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg came under fire in a U.S. Congress hearing for not being able to say whether blatantly false political content such as wrong dates for an election would be fact-checked or removed from his platform.

The performance prompted more than 250 Facebook employees to sign an open letter urging Zuckerberg to reconsider his stance on misleading political content, the New York Times reported.

In Brussels, the call for action follows a monthslong voluntary process under which platforms willingly engaged with the European Commission over their efforts to combat disinformation, including filing monthly reports on their progress.

This voluntary “Code of Practice” was signed by Facebook, Google, Twitter and Mozilla, in addition to advertisers. Microsoft joined the scheme in May.

Share your data

In his annual assessment, King welcomed moves from the platforms such as launching public libraries of political advertisements, labeling the ads according to who is paying for them, promoting media literacy and fighting bots.

However, he said the positive steps were undercut by a lack of access to data on those ads for independent researchers. Researchers warn that failing to give them access to data or providing partial visibility makes it difficult to check just how effective the efforts are, and opens the door for undetected growth of fake news online.

While the Commission, which is due to turn over before the end of this year, is toughening its rhetoric, Read More – Source