Q1/2019 - European Union (EU)


Romanian EU Presidency, Brussels, 31 January 2019

At a meeting of the European Internet Foundation (EIF) in Brussels on 30 January 2019, the new Romanian EU Presidency presented its plans for digitalisation and Internet governance.[1] Romania intends to foster the advancement of a European digital single market. Support shall be rendered in particular to small and medium-sized companies, and here above all to start-ups and scale-ups. A main focus during Romanian Presidency will be on education and training, mainly in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). Romania further requests an adequate ethical and legal framework for digital transformation and artificial intelligence. Additionally, it will promote the EU Copyright Directive and the new Regulation on online platforms (Platforms-to-Business Regulation).

Code of Practice against Disinformation, Brussels, 20 March 2019

At a meeting in Brussels, the four EU commissioners (Vice-President Andrus Ansip, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Security Union Julian King and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel) and the three Internet platforms Facebook, Google and Twitter found and stated that progress had been made with the implementation of the Code of Practice against Disinformation that had been agreed in October 2018.[2] The monthly reports of the three Internet platforms show that the path taken with the “Code of Practice” is the right approach.[3] Until the European Parliament elections in May 2019, the main issue will be to find solutions to securely ward off any attempts to manipulate the elections. The procedure now establishing with the monthly reports should be further developed in due course.

EU Copyright Directive, Strasbourg, 25 March 2019

The vote of the European Parliament on the reform of EU copyright law caused a major political stir. In particular, Articles 11 and 13 (later 17) were seen by the Internet community as an encroachment on Internet freedom. Opponents feared that the guarantee demanded by the platform operators that no copyrighted material was uploaded would inevitably lead to "overblocking" and new upload filters. The new Directive was adopted by the European Parliament on 25 March 2019. After confirmation by the European Council, the EU member states have 24 months to translate the Directive into national law.[4]

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  1. [1] Program of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Brussels, 1 January to 30 June 2019, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/37974/romanian-presidency-programme.pdf
  2. [2] Code of practice against disinformation: Commission takes note of the progress made by online platforms and urges them to step up their efforts, Brussels, 20 March 2019: "Yesterday's meeting and the reports published today show that online platforms are making progress. We had good discussions with them about how they can further improve the ongoing monthly reporting requested in the Action Plan against Disinformation. Such monthly progress is needed to ensure the transparency during the election campaign. We take note of the progress described in the February reports in a number of areas. The platforms have all confirmed that their tools for assessing the transparency of political ads will be operational in advance of the European elections in May. This is a substantial achievement, especially in such a short time-frame, which will enhance the transparency of online paid political advertisements and ensure that voters will be reliably informed throughout the election period and beyond. We also welcome the fact that all three platforms are taking election integrity initiatives that go beyond the specific commitments set out in the Code of Practice. However, further efforts are needed by all signatories in key areas. More systematic information is needed for the Commission to assess the efforts deployed by the online platforms to scrutinise the placement of ads and to better understand the effectiveness of the actions taken against bots and fake accounts. We encourage online platforms to work with researchers and fact-checkers on access to live information on public pages, streams and other services, as well as on data on inauthentic accounts they have identified and removed. Such access could help to obtain a comprehensive and independent picture of disinformation patterns and trends, and should be done in full respect of the General Data Protection Regulation. Finally, we need to make sure that the tools being developed by online platforms are available in all 28 EU Member States, not only in certain Member States." See: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-19-1757_en.htm
  3. [3] Code of practice against disinformation: Commission takes note of the progress made by online platforms and urges them to step up their efforts, Brussels, 20 March 2019: Main outcomes of the reports: Google reported on actions to improve scrutiny of ad placements in the EU and provided further detail on its election ads transparency policy, including the specific verification requirements that advertisers must meet to run election ads. It confirmed that its EU Elections Ads Transparency Report will be introduced in April, covering all political adverts on the platform. Data was also provided on the removal of a significant number of YouTube channels for violation of its policies on spam, deceptive practices & scams and impersonation. Google needs to show further progress on the transparency of issue-based advertising and on abusive account creation as well as more detailed reporting on YouTube. Facebook reported on actions to improve the scrutiny of ad placements and highlighted a new policy on vaccine misinformation, as well as more information on their policy for issue-based advertising in the EU. Facebook confirmed its Ad Library will be launched in late March and will consist of a publicly searchable database for political and issue-based ads. The platform also reported that it had tackled three cases of coordinated inauthentic behaviour in February in Romania, the UK and Moldova. Facebook should provide more information on specific actions taken against breaches of its community standards (such as misrepresentation or inauthenticity). Twitter has expanded its political campaigning ads policy to cover the EU and started enforcing its policy on 11 March. This policy includes a certification process and ads covered by the policy will be viewable in Twitter's Ad Transparency Centre. Twitter needs to show more progress on the scrutiny of ad placements, as well as report on actions to protect its services against malicious automated accounts, spam and other activities.“ See http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-19-1757_en.htm
  4. [4] Copyright reform: The Commission welcomes European Parliament's vote in favour of modernised rules fit for digital age, Strasbourg, 26 March 2019, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-19-1839_en.htm