The European Commission Launches Formal Investigation Into Meta’s Data Handling Practices

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has come under scrutiny by the European Commission for its handling of political content, illegal content, and disinformation on its platforms. The investigation comes amidst a surge in online pro-Russian propaganda leading up to the EU elections in June.

The European Commission has raised concerns about Meta’s compliance with the Digital Services Act (DSA), which is a set of rules aimed at protecting users and creating safer online environments. In particular, the investigation is focusing on Meta’s approach to combating disinformation campaigns and “coordinated inauthentic behavior” in the EU. There are also worries about the lack of effective third-party tools for monitoring elections and civic discourse in real-time, especially with the deprecation of CrowdTangle without a suitable replacement.

There has been a call for EU political leaders to address Russia’s attempts to interfere with democratic processes across the EU. According to France’s European affairs minister, almost every EU country is facing targeted Russian propaganda ahead of the European elections. This has raised concerns about the integrity of the electoral process and the need for vigilant monitoring to protect the democratic values of the EU.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, emphasized the importance of protecting European citizens from disinformation and manipulation by third countries. She stressed the need for digital platforms like Meta to invest sufficient resources in maintaining a safe online environment, especially during democratic elections. The European Commission is committed to upholding the rules laid out in the DSA and ensuring compliance from all parties involved.

The investigation will also look into how Meta moderates deceptive advertising, the visibility of political content on Instagram and Facebook, and the mechanisms available for users to flag illegal content. EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager highlighted the risks associated with deceptive advertising, stating that it can undermine online debates and erode the rights of consumers and citizens. Trust in online content is crucial for maintaining a healthy and informed public discourse.

Meta could face fines of up to 6 percent of its annual turnover if it is found to be in violation of the DSA and fails to address the issues highlighted in the investigation. The European Commission has not set a deadline for the investigation, indicating the seriousness of the allegations and the need for a thorough examination of Meta’s practices.

The European Commission’s decision to launch a formal investigation into Meta’s data handling practices underscores the importance of maintaining a secure and trustworthy online environment for users. With the rise of disinformation and political interference, digital platforms must be held accountable for their actions to safeguard the integrity of democratic processes and protect the rights of individuals. It is imperative for companies like Meta to prioritize transparency, user safety, and regulatory compliance to uphold the values of a democratic society.


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