EU introduces new guidelines to fight deepfakes

EU introduces new guidelines to fight deepfakes

The European Commission will release new guidelines for publishing disinformation on Thursday. This reports Reuters news agency on the basis of insiders and an EU document. Major tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter will have to take measures to combat deep fakes and fake accounts on their platforms. If they don’t, they risk heavy fines. The new rules are part of the EU’s approach to countering fake news.

New policy for tech companies

The new directive on disinformation replaces the current ‘voluntary code’, which was introduced in 2018. It will now be replaced by a co-regulatory system, where regulators and signatories to the codeshare responsibility. The updated code will be linked to the strict new EU rules known as the Digital Services Act (DSA). This Act was approved by all 27 EU countries earlier this year. It includes a section on combating disinformation. “The DSA is a legal backbone of the Code of Practice against disinformation – including severe deterrent sanctions,” Commissioner Thierry Breton said in a statement to Reuters.

The new rules require tech companies to “adopt, reinforce and implement clear policies regarding unauthorized manipulative behaviour” on their platforms. These policies should be based on the behaviours and tactics employed by malicious actors.

Companies that fail to meet their obligations under the new rules can expect a fine based on the DSA rules. This fine can amount to as much as six per cent of the company’s worldwide turnover. The companies will have to take measures to, for example, tackle advertising with disinformation and provide more transparency about political advertisements. After signing the amended guidelines, they are given six months to do so.

Deepfakes and war in Ukraine

Examples of manipulative behaviour are mentioned in the new rules. This concerns, for example,  deepfakes and fake accounts, which the tech companies will have to tackle. Deepfakes are pieces of media, for example, a video or audio message, in which it seems that a certain person is saying or doing something. In reality, these are hyper-realistic fakes. Because the quality of deep fake videos is constantly improving, the images are in some cases indistinguishable from the real thing.

Vice-President of the European Commission Věra Jourová says the war in Ukraine supports some of the changes to the guidelines. “Once the code is up and running, we will be better prepared to deal with disinformation, including from Russia,” Jourová said in a statement. In the war with Ukraine, Russia uses deepfakes for propaganda purposes, among other things.

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