Meta faces EU investigation into Russian disinformation

Meta faces EU investigation into Russian disinformation

The European Commission has opened formal investigation proceedings into Meta over its handling of political content, including a suspected Russian influence campaign.

With elections looming in the EU and elsewhere, officials say they will assess whether the company’s approach to moderate misinformation on Facebook and Instagram violates EU law.

Among the Commission’s concerns is Meta’s oversight of its advertising tools, and whether they have been exploited by “malicious actors.”

The investigation will also examine whether Meta was transparent enough about the moderation of its content and political accounts.

“We have robust processes to identify and mitigate risks on our platform,” Meta said in a statement.

“We look forward to continuing our cooperation with the European Commission and providing them with more details on this work.”

The company is one of several tech firms designated as a “very large online platform” (VLOP) under the bloc’s Digital Services Act (DSA).

VLOPs face fines of up to 6% of their annual turnover if they do not meet stricter content moderation requirements.

This includes taking action to prevent election manipulation and misinformation.

The commission says it suspects Meta’s current methods of facilitating misinformation and political ads do not comply with DSA obligations.

It is concerned about its impact on the upcoming election cycle, with European Parliament elections due to take place in June.

“The Commission has created ways to protect European citizens from misinformation and manipulation targeted by third countries,” said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“If we suspect a violation of the rules, we act. This is true at all times, but especially during democratic elections.”

The four concerns at the heart of the EU Commission’s investigation are:

Monitoring and moderation of ineffective ads
Lack of transparency on the downgrading of political content and accounts
Journalists and civil society researchers do not have easy access to real-time data or tools to monitor political content during elections
Lack of a clear and easy way for users to report illegal content
A European Commission official said it believes Meta’s current approach to ad moderation does not meet DSA requirements.

It cited findings by a non-profit research organization, AI Forensik, that a Russian influence campaign had run ads across the firm’s platforms.

AI Forensik said it found a network of 3,826 pages spreading “pro-Russian propaganda” and that the campaign had reached 38 million users between August 2023 and March 2024.

It said less than 20% of ads were moderated by Meta as political.

Meta says that it has taken action against the “Doppelganger” campaign since it first revealed it in 2022 and that it is now seeing less user engagement as a result.

The commission gave the firm five days to respond to requests for information about tools for journalists and researchers to monitor content on Facebook and Instagram during the upcoming election.

It said it was concerned by Meta’s approach to CrowdTangle – a public tool that provides data and insights into Facebook and Instagram content engagement.

The firm announced in March that it would no longer be available from August 14, but said it was building new tools to provide wider access to the platform’s data.

The EU Commission’s investigation follows the launch of a similar investigation into misinformation on X (formerly Twitter) in March.

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