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European Commission Opens Official Probe into Meta Over Inadequate Fight Against Russian Disinformation

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Photo: European Commission Opens Official Probe into Meta Over Inadequate Fight Against Russian Disinformation. Source: Collage The Gaze \ by Leonid Lukashenko
Photo: European Commission Opens Official Probe into Meta Over Inadequate Fight Against Russian Disinformation. Source: Collage The Gaze \ by Leonid Lukashenko

The European Commission today opened an official investigation into how Facebook and Instagram, owned by Meta, are countering disinformation campaigns by Russia and other third countries.

The European Commission has decided to assess whether Facebook and Instagram are in breach of the Digital Services Act (DSA). The companies could face fines of up to 6% of their annual revenue if found in breach.

"This Commission has put in place measures to protect European citizens from targeted disinformation and manipulation by third countries. If we suspect a breach of the rules, we act," said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

She thanked Petr Fiala, the Czech Prime Minister, who in March announced the exposure of a network that was developing an operation to spread Russian influence and undermine security in Europe. In this context, Prague has imposed sanctions on Viktor Medvedchuk, as well as Ukrainian-born propagandist Artem Marchevsky and the pro-Kremlin right-wing website Voice of Europe.

The alleged violations cover Meta's policies and practices regarding misleading advertising and political content in its services. They also relate to the lack of an effective real-time third-party public discourse and monitoring tool in the run-up to the European Parliament elections, as Meta abandoned its real-time public analysis tool Crowd Tangle without a replacement.

The European Commission also stated that Meta's platforms could be used for massive fraud and advertising created by artificial intelligence tools.

Facebook and Instagram may also illegally restrict the visibility of political content on their platforms without properly informing users. This means that users may not be aware that their posts about social and political issues may be more restricted by the algorithm.

EU institutions and member states are to hold regular crisis meetings to combat foreign interference in EU elections, after Belgium launched a European response mechanism last week. EU countries are also considering a much broader sanctions regime against Russian manipulation operations around the world.

Meta is the fourth company to be investigated for violating the DSA.

The EU is also examining TikTok for potentially failing to protect minors, and AliExpress for failing to protect consumers from illegal and dangerous products. The social network Twitter (now X) also faces penalties for unverified disinformation and illegal content.  

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