This study assesses the implementation of the commitments made by these platforms and search engines. The white paper also examined member state-level data specific to Bulgaria, provided in the reports.
Researchers argue that “regulatory action under the Digital Services Act is urgently needed in order to protect and encourage transparent and representative, large-scale research into disinformation. Otherwise, the corrosive effects of disinformation will continue and events such as the upcoming EU elections will undoubtedly be targets for disinformation campaigns across the continent”.
The main purpose of the Code is to enable a co-regulatory environment for the industry in its efforts against online disinformation. As we know disinformation’s corrosive effect on public discourse has been growing steadily as can be observed in high profile examples such as Brexit, the Cambridge Analytica revelations and the election of President Donald Trump, the COVID pandemic, and the Russian war in Ukraine.
The current analysis covers different periods which were determined by the data provided by the companies themselves. The data provided generally reflects the final quarter of 2022.
The CoP contains three main pillars – Advertising and political advertising; Integrity of the Services; Empowering Users, Empowering researchers & Empowering Fact-Checkers. Researchers have based their methodological approach on another international collaborative study led by EDMO Ireland and the German-Austrian Digital Media Observatory (GADMO) to the evaluation of the information provided by the VLOP and VLOSE.
The aggregated results show that for advertising, companies’ responses were the weakest. In relation to providing more options to consumers, the most data were given. However, this does not increase clarity and transparency.
Researchers are calling for harmonization and standardisation of data reporting formats and methodology, as well as a common infrastructure for data processing. This is especially important for EU member states with smaller linguistic and computational resources such as Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia.
The study also recommends measures to improve the transparency and quality of reports provided by the corporations.
Researchers emphasize that in general, there is a need for more detailed data, as well as clarification of the methodology by which the data was processed and collected by VLOPs and VLOSE. In general, the companies’ answers lack the necessary clarity and depth, and doubts arise about the verifiability of the information, specifically at the country level. It is often claimed that some measures are yet to be taken and thus no data has been provided. The researchers also make a number of important technological recommendations to facilitate data processing, as well as recommendations for actions that need to be undertaken by the European Commission in order to improve VLOP and VLOSE compliance with the Code.
The GATE Institute is the coordinator of the European Commission’s project BROD, which is developing a regional hub for Bulgaria and Romania for the detection of disinformation. It is working together with other national and regional centers across the EU, under the coordination of the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO).
The paper by the GATE researchers appears alongside the European Commission’s report about Digital Services Act and application of the risk management framework to Russian disinformation campaigns; the summary report of the public consultation on the DSA Transparency Database, as well as the assessment report of Irish and German hubs of EDMO.
The full document is available HERE