EU commissioner warns internet firms in clampdown ahead of European elections

Facebook and its new head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, stand accused by Brussels of taking a “patchy, opaque, and self-selecting” approach to tackling disinformation.

The description was said to apply to a number of internet companies by the EU commissioner, Sir Julian King, at the publication of a progress report on the attempt to clamp down on fake news before May’s European elections.

But it was Mark Zuckerberg’s company, one of four major signatories to a new code of conduct, which bore the heaviest criticism from senior officials in the EU’s executive branch during a press conference in Brussels.

Asked about the appointment of Clegg, the former British deputy prime minister, as Facebook’s head of global affairs, King said: “I wish Nick Clegg well, I wish him luck. I think he is going to need it.”

On Tuesday, the commission published the first reports submitted by Google, the web browser Firefox Mozilla, and the social media platforms Facebook and Twitter on their adherence to the voluntary code of practice signed in October.

Under the code, the internet firms are obliged to disrupt revenue for accounts and websites misrepresenting information, clamp down on fake accounts and bots, give prominence to reliable sources of news and improve the transparency of funding of political advertising.

Clegg, who worked for the European commission in the mid-1990s, announced on Monday, during a visit to the Belgian capital, that Facebook would tackle political misinformation in the run-up to the EU elections with a “war room” based in Dublin.

But while King said the development was welcome, he expressed his evident frustration with Clegg’s Silicon Valley employer.

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