There has been an alarming rise of deepfake videos, false news, and fake accounts used to manipulate public opinion. As a result, the European Union is taking tech giants Google, Meta, and Twitter to task for failing to address these issues and demanding that they pay fines for violating the EU’s Code of Conduct.

In a revised edition of a voluntary regulatory code regarding disinformation enacted in 2018,  EU officials call on the companies above to police their platforms for manipulative accounts and dubious content. If they fail, they need to pay substantial fines.

The specific revision calls upon signatories to the code to adopt, reinforce, and implement clear and concise policies against prohibited practices and manipulative behavior on their platforms. These policies must be based on evidence regarding the conduct, tactics, techniques, and procedures used by fraudsters, hackers, and paid trolls.

Deepfakes, essentially videos or images altered using visual editing software, are listed among these prohibited practices, along with creating fake accounts, blatant identity theft, and using fraudulent accounts to spread false or unfounded information.

According to legal experts, the revised EU code essentially involves co-regulation between government regulators and signatories to the code, ensuring that all parties are responsible for its implementation.

Meta signed the original code under its old name, Facebook; Google, Twitter, and content-driven social media platform TikTok are also signatories.

Introducing the Digital Services Act

Revising the Code of Conduct isn’t the EU’s only way of getting tech giants to toe the line. In April of this year, the European Parliament passed the Digital Services Act (DSA), a legislative order regulating how tech companies harvest and use their clients’ data and monitor their platforms for false information and hate speech.

According to Thierry Breton, EU commissioner for the internal market and one of the authors of the DSA, the Act serves as the legal backbone of the Code of Conduct. Specifically, it works against disinformation through the imposition of heavy sanctions. 

A spokesperson for the commissioner added that any violations against the code would be seen as impudence on the part of the aforementioned tech companies in that they are not doing enough to mitigate adverse activities on their platforms. This impudence will entail heavy fines and sanctions.

What Punishment Awaits Violators?

Based on the revision, companies that fail to police their platforms in compliance with the code may be charged fines amounting to around 6% of their global turnover.

As a result, mega-corporations like Meta and Google are concerned, given how the former posted annual revenue of $118 billion and the latter $258 billion at the end of 2021. That 6% could amount to billions of dollars worth of fines.