Tech & Rights

Policy ​Recommendations On Tackling Disinformation Online

Disinformation is a phenomenon societies have dealt with for a long time, but it has intensified since the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2016 US election and the Brexit referendum have demonstrated how impactful online disinformation and propaganda can be.

by Franziska Otto

We know that disinformation will always exist. Therefore the real goal is to eliminate its negative impact rather than evaluate all information and decide about its factuality. The European Commission now has the chance to do so by properly enforcing already existing rules and possibly drafting new legislation for more transparency and a new code of conduct.

This is why Liberties, EDRi, and Access Now have issued a paper on taking steps for proportionate interventions while still ensuring that fundamental rights such as free speech, free thought, and freedom of information are respected. We base our recommendations on the premise that disinformation is not the cause but rather a symptom of deeper societal problems such as racism, sexism, and inequality.

In order to address the negative impacts of disinformation, it is essential to understand that the problem is rooted in the business model of social media platforms, which relies on tracking and harvesting data on how users engage online. These data are used to personalize ads, often for harmless things like sports shoes, but also to personalize disinformation.

Therefore we call for an environment in which it is not possible to make money with the spread of disinformation.

In our paper, we recommend a list of actions that can be taken in order to achieve this goal:

We want the EU to establish a safeguard where you as a user have to agree (“opt-in”) to see personalized recommendations rather than disagree (“opt-out”) to not see them. Not only does this give you a chance to make an informed decision, but it also gives you control.

No platforms should allow targeting based on sensitive data, such as sexuality, health-related issues, or political preferences. Even if you openly talk about these issues online, no advertisers should use these data sets for targeting.

We call for more transparency of online targeted advertisements. This should include proper disclaimers on all political and issue-based ads, including information on why, how, and by whom you were being targeted.

Additionally, we call for strong enforcement of the GDPR. The GDPR safeguards the rights of EU residents and prevents the misuse of their personal data for targeting purposes.

Want to know more about the steps the EU can take to lessen the negative impact of disinformation and to give users power over their data?

Read our detailed recommendations in the summary document.

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