A “tight marking” but subject to interference
Holders of the big digital platforms have tried to redeem themselves from the “sins” of previous years, however, the experience of the first major election moment of the year revealed that the fight against disinformation was not going to be a respite.
In addition to adding new mechanics to its Ad Library regarding political advertising, Facebook opened the “War Room” to intercept any irregular content even before it had a chance to spread. Google has also decided to strengthen its abuse prevention and information verification tools. Even so, in June, Brussels confirmed the suspicions: Russia did try to interfere with the European Elections.
However, this year Russia was not the only one conducting disinformation campaigns. An Oxford University study found that at least 70 countries are using social networks as a tool for spreading false information, with Facebook being the platform of choice for many of them.
Are the social media “locks on the door” enough?
Over the course of this year, Mark Zuckerberg's company has taken stricter measures to limit the spread of false information, tightening the grip on political ads and even halting two misinformation campaigns on its platforms. Like last year, Facebook still ran a lot of ink in 2019, not only because of global regulators' scrutiny of the Libra project and the payment of the £ 500,000 fine imposed by the UK on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but also for its performance in relation to political ads on the platform.
At the same time it announced the arrival of a new News Tab, the company faced public scrutiny for allowing politicians to act as misinformation on its platform. In response, Twitter decided to distance itself from all the controversy surrounding political propaganda on social networks and banned all political ads. En route to the US presidential elections of 2020, Twitter also announced that the political leaders on its platform are not above the rules.
While Instagram and Whatsapp have also taken increasingly serious steps to curb the spread of false information, a New York University study warned in September of the high risk of being used as sources of misinformation in the US presidential election. 2020.
But are the "locks" placed truly effective? For Tito de Morais, Twitter, for example, could be a possible solution for the platform, not for the entire Internet. “In addition, at the level of improving citizens' media literacy rates and promoting critical thinking, this measure does little or nothing,” he explained.
Carla Batista, professor in the field of communication sciences at the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences of the New University of Lisbon, says that in 2019 “we lost our naivete and realized that part of the problem cannot be just to hold users or traditional media responsible. " "It is necessary to 'really put your finger on the wound' and understand the direct role that technology giants play in promoting false information," he told SAPO TEK.
Fake news: the “new normal” for 2020?
The fake news landscape in 2019 ended in much the same way it began: with the European Commission declaring that technology giants still have a long way to go. Although Brussels has recognized some progress, the Self-Regulation Code of Conduct has fallen short of expectations. “Large-scale automated advertising and misinformation persist and there is more work to be done in all areas of the Code. We cannot accept this as a new normal, "warned the commissioners in charge of the project.
“So far there has been so much confrontation and awareness that some of the responsibility for digitally circulating misinformation also involves, and demands from, platforms much more assertive and aggressive measures than have been taken so far.” , explained Carla Batista. Nevertheless, the teacher doubts if the project will have the intended effects.
“[Digital platforms] always say yes, they are willing to collaborate and take action,” but “deep down, it's just a public relations operation that never really questions what dynamics, design and the political and moral economy of disinformation networks, ”added Carla Batista.
Since 2018, the promise remains that, if satisfactory results are not achieved, the European Commission may resort to other measures to ensure the protection of citizens, including the implementation of new legislation. In this scenario, there is also the question whether technology giants have learned the lessons of previous years well enough to meet future challenges.
“This is the big battle to win, but I don't believe it can be won,” said Carla Batista, adding that “from now on there will be no more relevant political events, whether local or international, where there is no activation of logic. of misinformation. The upcoming US elections, for example, promise not to leave anyone indifferent. The teacher foresees that these “loom” what is already evident: the polarization, the contamination of all mechanisms, even the fact-checking ones.
Already Tito de Morais hopes that the abundance of fact checking initiatives this year will not translate in 2020 into a "need for fact checkers from fact checking sites". He said that while digital platforms play an important role, "prevention will be more information, awareness and education than administrative measures."
According to Carla Batista, 2020 could bring an “interesting challenge” to the European context. "THE transposition of Directive 1808, on the common digital market, which presupposes regulation of the audiovisual market, brings to the area of regulation things that have hitherto escaped, namely the sharing of videos on social networks ”, he explained. In his words this is “already an idea of regulation expanding and strengthening and saying that the question of collective understanding of what is freedom of expression, what are the values of the network, what are the The limits of this freedom cannot only be based on the business and commercial logic of the platforms. ”
“Even if these companies are committed to a code of conduct, or have a social responsibility policy, we can't move the whole moral economy from network communication to technology management, that is to deliver a good deal of governance to networks. But in fact, that's what is already happening, ”explained the teacher.