EU probe targets Facebook and Instagram as Russian disinformation spikes


The European Commission has targeted Meta with a formal investigation to assess whether it’s doing enough to moderate political content, illegal content, and disinformation on Facebook and Instagram. The probe comes amid a spike in online pro-Russian propaganda in the run-up to EU elections in early June.

In a press release on Tuesday, the European Commission claims that Meta may have breached its obligations under the Digital Services Act (DSA), a set of EU rules that aim to protect users by fostering safer online environments. The potential violations being investigated cover Meta’s approach to tackling disinformation campaigns and “coordinated inauthentic behavior” in the EU, alongside the lack of effective third-party tools for monitoring elections and civic discourse in real time — with particular concern that Meta is deprecating CrowdTangle without an adequate replacement.

The EU has called its leaders to urgently counter Russian interference ahead of elections in June

The concerns about election monitoring follow a call for EU political leaders to “urgently and vigorously” counter Russia’s attempts to interfere with democratic processes across the bloc. According to France’s European affairs minister Jean-Noel Barrot, almost every EU country is being targeted by Russian propaganda ahead of European elections starting on June 6th.

Alongside the announcement of the investigation, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said:

This Commission has created means to protect European citizens from targeted disinformation and manipulation by third countries. If we suspect a violation of the rules, we act. This is true at all times, but especially in times of democratic elections. Big digital platforms must live up to their obligations to put enough resources into this and today’s decision shows that we are serious about compliance. Protecting our democracies is a common fight with our Member States.

The probe will also assess how Meta moderates deceptive advertising, policies that reduce the visibility of political content on Instagram and Facebook, and the sufficiency of mechanisms that allow users to flag illegal content.

“If we cannot be sure that we can trust content that we see online there’s a risk that we end up not believing anything at all,” said EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager. “Deceptive advertising is a risk to our online debate and ultimately to our rights as both consumers and citizens.”

The European Commission hasn’t given itself a deadline for the investigation. If Meta is found to be in violation of the DSA and fails to remedy the issues, it could face fines of up to 6 percent of its annual turnover.

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