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Statement of EDMO Executive Board: Despite pledges, online platforms are failing in the fight against disinformation

The Executive Board of the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) welcomes the opening of the Transparency Centre and the publication of the first reports of the signatories of the Strengthened Code of Practice on Disinformation. EDMO invites the signatories to be more accurate, clear, and transparent in their reporting. The published reports do not constitute sufficient compliance with the commitments undertaken by the signatories.

Signatories of the code of practice have also committed to work towards developing Structural Indicators, and publish a first set of them within nine months from the signature of the code. As requested by the European Commission, EDMO has presented to the signatories a first proposal of structural indicators, with an emphasis on the prevalence, sources, and audiences of disinformation. With the original timetable already delayed, EDMO encourages the signatories to agree on the indicators as soon as possible. In order to successfully implement the indicators across all EU Member States, both access to platforms’ data and additional economic resources will be needed.

Professor Miguel Poiares Maduro, chair of EDMO’s Executive Board, summarises: “We fully understand this is the start of a process. However, providing partial reports with non-auditable figures will not contribute enough to the credibility and sufficiency of the Code of Practice.”

EDMO is concerned about the recent announcement by Twitter to start charging for access to its application programming interface. Access to Twitter’s public data is key to research on disinformation. Charging for such data access severely impacts the feasibility and continuity of a number of research projects as well as creates discrimination among researchers based on their funding availability.

Professor Claes de Vreese, a member of EDMO’s Executive Board, states: “The announced end of free access through the TwitterAPI for academic researchers jeopardises ongoing and future projects on e.g., hate speech and disinformation. A paid access fee will further exacerbate existing inequalities in which researchers might have partial access and will leave us as societies knowing less rather than more.”

The European Union has recently taken potentially crucial steps in the fight against disinformation. Twitter is expected to be classified as a Very Large Online Platform under the Digital Services Act and will consequently have only four months to become fully compliant with the regulation. In addition, the company has pledged itself to a number of commitments under the Strengthened Code of Practice on Disinformation, including providing access to data for research on disinformation. EDMO strongly encourages Twitter, and all platforms, to live up to those commitments.