Brussels is preparing to crack down on social media companies who have been accused of spreading "fake news", issuing a stark warning that scandals such as the Facebook data leak threaten to "subvert our democratic systems".
The European Commission fears that next year's elections to the European Parliament are vulnerable to mass eurosceptic online "disinformation". Its concern sharpened after a whistleblower alleged that Cambridge Analytica gathered personal information from up to 50m Facebook users and used it to target voters in the US presidential election. Cambridge Analytica has denied using Facebook data in its modelling.
Julian King, European commissioner for security, is demanding a "clear game plan" for how social media companies can operate during sensitive election periods — starting with European Parliament polls in May 2019.
A letter from Sir Julian to Mariya Gabriel, commissioner for the digital economy, calls for more transparency on the internal algorithms that internet platforms use to promote stories, limits on the "harvesting" of personal information for political purposes, and disclosure by tech companies of who funds "sponsored content" on their websites.
Sir Julian proposes a "more binding approach" than self-regulation, including "clearly and carefully defined performance indicators".