Big Tech failed to police Russian disinformation: EU study


The independent study of the DSA’s risk management framework published by the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, concluded that commitments by social media platforms to mitigate the reach and influence of global online disinformation campaigns have been generally unsuccessful.

The reach of Kremlin-sponsored disinformation has only increased since the major platforms all signed a voluntary Code of Practice on Disinformation in mid-2022.

“In theory, the requirements of this voluntary Code were applied during the second half of 2022 – during our period of study,” the researchers said. We’re sure you’re just as shocked as we are that social media companies failed to uphold a voluntary commitment.

Between January and May of 2023, “average engagement [of pro-Kremlin accounts rose] by 22 percent across all online platforms,” the study said. By absolute numbers, the report found, Meta led the pack on engagement with Russian misinformation. However, the increase was “largely driven by Twitter, where engagement grew by 36 percent after CEO Elon Musk decided to lift mitigation measures on Kremlin-backed accounts,” researchers concluded. Twitter, now known as X, pulled out of the disinformation Code in May.

Across the platforms studied – Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube – Kremlin-backed accounts have amassed some 165 million followers and have had their content viewed at least 16 billion times “in less than a year.” None of the platforms we contacted responded to questions.


The EU’s Digital Services Act and its requirements that VLOPs (defined by the Act as companies large enough to reach 10 percent of the EU, or roughly 45 million people) police illegal content and disinformation became enforceable late last month.

Under the DSA, VLOPs are also required “to tackle the spread of illegal content, online disinformation and other societal risks,” such as, say, the massive disinformation campaign being waged by the Kremlin since Putin decided to invade Ukraine last year.


Now that VLOPs are bound by the DSA, will anything change? We asked the European Commission if it can take any enforcement actions, or whether it’ll make changes to the DSA to make disinformation rules tougher, but have yet to hear back.

Two VLOPs are fighting their designation: Amazon and German fashion retailer Zalando. The two orgs claim that as retailers, they shouldn’t be considered in the same category as Facebook, Pinterest, and Wikipedia.


Source: Big Tech failed to police Russian disinformation: EU study • The Register

Robin Edgar

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