EU Commission seeks input on tackling fake news, ensuring fair polls

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, June 5, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission will on Wednesday seek input from the public and civic bodies on how to combat fake news and ensure free and fair elections, a move that could lead to new rules targeting social platforms such as Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

Social media has come under fire on both sides of the Atlantic for carrying political ads that contain false or misleading claims ahead of elections, with the upcoming U.S. presidential election on Nov. 3 a key focus.

The European Parliament is due to hold elections in 2024. Last year’s polls were subjected to disinformation from Russian online outlets seeking to sway voters, the Commission has said.

“The aim of the European Democracy Action Plan is to ensure that citizens are able to participate in the democratic system through informed decision-making free from interference and manipulation affecting elections and the democratic debate,” a Commission document launching the process and seen by Reuters said.

Respondents will be asked about the transparency of political advertising, if the content is clearly labelled and if it is easy to identify the party or candidate behind such ads.

The Commission asked if the current system where social media companies self-regulate should be maintained or if a regulatory package with overarching principles should apply to all information society services or if more detailed rules for tackling disinformation are needed.

Another section asked about measures used by Facebook and its subsidiary WhatsApp, Twitter, Google’s YouTube and others to curb fake news and if respondents see any problems with the companies’ efforts.

The consultation is open until Sept. 8 after which the Commission will present its plan.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee in Brussels; Editing by Matthew Lewis