The EU is preparing to take action against the spread of deepfakes and fake accounts by ordering social media companies to act or risk hefty fines.
Alphabet's Google, Facebook/Meta, Twitter, and other technology companies will be required to show they are taking measures to stamp out fake news on their platforms under an updated EU code of practice, according to a document from Brussels seen by Reuters.
The changes are expected to be announced on Thursday, when the European Commission publishes an update to the code introduced in 2018 as a voluntary programme. It will not become a co-regulation scheme, with responsibility shared between the regulators and signatories.
The updated rules set out examples of manipulative behaviour such as deepfakes and fake accounts which the signatories are obliged to tackle.
Deepfakes are videos or photos in which a person is replaced with someone else’s likeness using artificial intelligence technology. The synthetic media has caused alarm around the world, particularly when used in a political context.
Many deepfakes are pornographic, with the faces of female celebrities routinely used by makers. Audio can also be deepfaked to create “voice skins” or “voice clones”, a practice which causes concern among authorities particularly when used to represent a political figure.
“Relevant signatories will adopt, reinforce and implement clear policies regarding impermissible manipulative behaviour and practices on their services, based on the latest evidence on the conduct and tactics, techniques and procedures employed by malicious actors,” the EU document read.
The code will also be linked to new EU rules known as the Digital Services Act (DSA) agreed by the 27-member bloc this year which has a section on combating disinformation.
In effect, companies which fail to meet their obligations under the code risk fines of as much as 6 per cent of their global turnover based on DSA rules. They have six months to put the measures into effect once they have signed up to the code.
Signatories will also have to take measures to tackle advertising containing disinformation and provide more transparency on political advertising.
“The DSA provides a legal backbone to the Code of Practice against disinformation — including heavy dissuasive sanctions,” EU industry chief Thierry Breton, who is leading the EU's efforts against disinformation, said.
EC Vice President Vera Jourova said Russia's invasion of Ukraine was behind some of the changes in the code.
“Once the code is operational, we will be better prepared to address disinformation, also coming from Russia,” she said in a statement.