Brussels is planning a crackdown on social media companies accused of “fake news” in the wake of a so-called scandal in which Facebook was allegedly used to help populist campaigns.
According to the Financial Times, the European Commission has warned that Eurosceptic “disinformation” threatens to “subvert our democracy” after it was claimed the harvested data of social media users helped boost Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign via targeted messaging.
European security commissioner Jonathan King has ordered the creation of a “clear game plan” on how social media companies will operate during election periods, calling for information on algorithms used to promote stories, disclosure of content sponsors and restrictions on the harvesting of personal data for political purposes.
“Psychometric targeting activities” are just a “preview of the profoundly disturbing effects such disinformation could have on the functioning of liberal democracies”, King said in a letter to Mariya Gabriel, EU commissioner for the digital economy.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 25, 2016
With the recent revelation the technology was used by Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign to gain access to information on the “entire social graph” of Facebook, Breitbart News noted that press coverage of the former president’s “widely known” data harvesting operation was “casual, even celebratory”, with no suggestion it could constitute “disinformation” or “threaten democracy”.
In the letter dated March 19, King proposed the EU take a”more binding approach” than self-regulation, including “clearly and carefully defined performance indicators” ahead of European Parliament elections next month.
“It is clear that the cyber-security threat we are facing is changing from one primarily targeting systems to one that is also increasingly about deploying cyber means to manipulate behaviour, deepen societal divides, subvert our democratic systems and raise questions about our democratic institutions,” he writes.
Remain supporters in Britain have seized upon news stories surrounding Brexit, data harvesting claims regarding analysis company Cambridge Analytica and the claim from a self-proclaimed “whistleblower” that Vote Leave “cheated” to claim the 2016 referendum result was illegitimate.
The Guardian/Observer was forced to issue a retraction of one of the key strands of its reporting on the matter which linked Cambridge Analytica to Vote Leave via a Canadian firm called Aggregate IQ.
Subsequent Guardian reporting has also been proved to be false, leading to an admission from the lead reporter on the story — Carole Cadwalladr — having to admit the reporting of fake news.
“No such scrutiny nor column inches have been afforded to all the ways the Remain campaigns cheated the system, even when there have already been fines levied upon Remain groups and campaigners for such brazen behaviour,” noted Breitbart London editor in chief Raheem Kassam last week, in a piece highlighting some of the electoral breaches made by the Europhile campaign.