European Union has ordered tech giants including — Google-parent Alphabet, Inc., Meta Platforms and Twitter among others to take serious steps to counter deepfakes and fake accounts on their online platforms. According to an EU document seen by Reuters, the political and economic body has updated its code of practice which will allow it to charge hefty fines on these tech giants if they don’t take action against fake accounts and deepfakes. As a part of its crackdown against fake news, the European Commission is likely to publish the updated code of practice on disinformation on Thursday (May 16).
What are deepfakes?
Deep Learning is a form of AI from which the term “deepfake” has been derived. Deepfakes use deep learning to create images of fake events. These algorithms can teach themselves to solve problems that involve huge sets of data. Fake news creators use this technology to swap faces and voices in videos, images, audio etc. to make realistic-looking fake content.
What is the EU’s new regulation scheme?
In 2018, the European Union introduced a voluntary code that shared responsibilities between regulators and tech companies to tackle fake news. However, this voluntary code is now getting updated to a co-regulation scheme that has pointed out examples of manipulative behaviour such as deepfakes and fake accounts that the tech giants will now be forced to tackle.
The EU document even mentions that these tech companies will have to “adopt, reinforce and implement clear policies regarding impermissible manipulative behaviours and practices on their services, based on the latest evidence on the conducts and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) employed by malicious actors.”
How much fine do the companies have to pay if they fail to comply with the code?
Moreover, this code will also be added to the stricter new EU rules known as the DSA or the Digital Services Act. 27 countries that form the European Union all approved this new law earlier this year which also includes a section on fighting misinformation.
According to DSA, tech companies that fail to comply with the new obligations might risk facing fines of as much as 6% of their global turnover. These companies will have six months to implement their measures once they have signed up for the code. The companies who sign this code will also have to take measures to tackle advertising that includes misinformation and has to provide more transparency on political advertising.
Importance of EU’s new regulation scheme
Computer techniques available in the modern age allow anyone to create deepfakes and hyper-realistic forgeries very easily. This misleading content can affect sensitive topics and situations like politics and war. The harmful effects of fake news have triggered alarm worldwide and have ultimately prompted the EU to take such an action.
EU industry chief Thierry Breton who is leading the body’s crackdown on fake news said that the DSA acts as a “legal backbone” for the Code of Practice against disinformation which also includes heavy dissuasive sanctions.
European Commission’s Vice President Vera Jourova stated that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which the country called a special operation was responsible for some of the changes in the code. She even mentioned that the EU will be “better prepared” to tackle fake news (even the ones coming from Russia) once the code is operational.