POLITICO Pro Morning Tech: Irish disinformation powwow — Bretons hearing — Digital Services Act
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By MELISSA HEIKKILÄ
With Laura Kayali, Mark Scott and Bjarke Smith-Meyer
— Lawmakers grill regulators and tech executives on online disinformation in Dublin.
— Commissioner-designate Thierry Breton set to face Parliament on November 14.
— Read the Commissions brief to the Council on preliminary work for the Digital Services Act.
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|DRIVING THE DAY|
TOUGH(ISH) QUESTIONS FROM DUBLIN: Who said politicians couldnt work with each other? In hearings today in the Irish capital, the “International Grand Committee on Disinformation and Fake News,” comprising of lawmakers from across Europe, the U.S and parts of South America and Asia will pepper regulators and tech executives with questions about how theyre dealing with online disinformation. Morning Tech hears the focus will be on getting something on the books to force greater disclosures around political ads. You can watch along here (from 9 a.m. Dublin time, 10 a.m. CET ) and look at whos appearing here.
Something better than nothing: With many governments still scratching their heads about what to do about such online material (that is often not illegal, but could sway potential voters), better coordination between lawmakers is always welcomed. As are lessons from how Canada implemented its recent restrictions of online political advertising, as well as proposals outlined by Dublin to follow suit on forcing greater disclosures for paid-for messages. The question remains — will it be enough? The era of self-regulation is definitely over, but what era were entering is another question.
Will it lead to anything? In a pledge to be signed by all of the lawmakers at the end of the hearings, theyre expected to call for greater international cooperation to set global rules, particularly around disclosures of political ad buys. But as many of the lawmakers present are not parts of their respective governments, its hard to see this as anything more than a talking-shop, at least for now.
In Lisbon, Margrethe Vestager and Věra Jourová will take the stage at Web Summit, and will follow up with respective press conferences in the early afternoon.
NEW ROUND OF HEARINGS IN SIGHT: Under a provisional timetable seen by Morning Tech, hearings for Frances Thierry Breton, Romanias Adina-Ioana Vălean and Hungarys Olivér Várhelyi are set to take place from November 14, with Bretons and Văleans scheduled for that day. The Legal Affairs committee meeting to scrutinize potential conflicts of interests is scheduled for November 12.
ITRE Chair primed for Commissioner post: Romanias Adina-Ioana Vălean, the European Peoples Party MEP who chairs the European Parliaments industry committee, has been picked to be the next transport commissioner by Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen. She was chosen after Romania Wednesday put forward two candidates for the position, Vălean and fellow MEP Siegfried Mureșan.
What it means for the Parliament: The game of musical chairs will soon begin, as Vălean will have to be replaced at the helm of the ITRE committee. Under the DHondt rules, her successor would have to come from the EPP as well. Vălean was also at the forefront of the fight between her committee and the internal market committee for control over tech regulation. Time will tell whether her replacement will carry the torch or adopt a softer approach.
Caveat: Any hiccup (documents that dont arrive in time, a commissioner who needs another hearing…) would jeopardize the whole schedule and potentially delay the entry into office of the von der Leyen Commission, which is now scheduled for December 1. More from Laura.
From Brussels to London: Meanwhile,Ursula von der Leyen has written to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking him to nominate a member of the Commission — and preferably a woman.
DIGITAL SERVICES ACT TO DO LIST: The EU executive body highlighted issues that need solving in the future legislation, such as the legal fragmentation across the single market and the oversight of digital services, according to the presentation given Tuesday by the Commission to Council experts, and obtained by Morning Tech.
Concerns raised by EU countries: The document gives an overview of the issues mentioned by member states at the October 8 e-commerce expert group. The cooperation between national regulators, the clarification of current legal definitions and proportionality for SMEs are among them.
On the Parliament front, coordinators in the internal market committee agreed Wednesday that the future initiative report on the file would go to the S&D group, two Parliament officials told Morning Tech. However, the competence issue remains unresolved, as many other committees want a piece of the DSA and the conference of committee chairs has yet to arbitrate.
PARLIAMENT PUSHES BACK ON TERRORIST CONTENT TIMELINE: “The [Finnish] presidency and the Commission are very committed to reach an agreement on the terrorist content regulation before the end of the year. My opinion is that we should work the details properly instead of rushing it through,” Marcel Kolaja, a Green MEP whos the rapporteur for the internal market committee opinion, told MEPs at an IMCO meeting Wednesday. The European Commission specifically wrote in its latest security report that negotiations should be concluded by the end of the year. The next trilogue is scheduled for November 20.
SCAMS AND SHOOTING FORCE AIRBNB TO VERIFY ALL LISTINGS: Airbnb has announced it will verify all rentals by the end of 2020. The announcement comes after news of a shooting that killed five in one of its rentals, and a report on a widespread fake host scam. How, exactly, does Airbnb plan to verify all its properties? Through a mixture of company and community monitoring, The Verge reports.
COMMISSION VP POURS MORE COLD WATER ON LIBRA: European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said Facebooks digital currency project, Libra, needs to address the risks it poses to financial stability and monetary sovereignty before it can operate across the EU.
The Latvian Wednesday sent the comments to our colleague Bjarke Smith-Meyer in an email after POLITICO reported the Commission had joined France and Germanys bandwagon to block so-called stablecoins until the right rules and supervision are in place. “We want to help innovative European companies to develop,” Dombrovskis said. “On the other hand, global initiatives such as Libra could create risks to monetary policy, financial stability, fair competition and monetary sovereignty.”
Libra needs to do more homework. “These concerns should be addressed before global stablecoin projects enter into operations,” he continued. “We should aim at striking a balance between seizing opportunities and managing risks.”
EU governments meanwhile were preparing a statement to put Libra on notice. While noting “opportunities in terms of cheap and fast payments,” a draft document under consideration warns “these arrangements pose multifaceted challenges and risks” including for consumer protection, privacy and cybersecurity. Finance ministers are due to discuss the text when they meet in Brussels on Friday for their monthly Ecofin. A final version is due in early December.
US TARIFFS ON FRANCE STILL POSSIBLE OVER DIGITAL TAX: A U.S. threat to impose tariffs on France over its new digital services tax could reemerge in coming weeks when a 90-day truce between the two countries expires. “I would encourage folks to play close attention to how the U.S. government responds at the end of this month,” Jennifer McCloskey, vice president of policy at the Information Technology Industry Council, said Wednesday during a discussion hosted by the Washington International Trade Association. “Tariffs are not out of the question, and I would just say that to everyone in the room, it may be the best tool the government has to combat these measures.” Read more from Doug Palmer here or below.
DISINFORMATION STILL RAMPANT ON FACEBOOK: False news reports that attack U.S. politicians have been viewed more than 150 million times on Facebook since the beginning of 2019, according to an analysis published by activist group Avaaz Wednesday. The analysis highlights how misinformation is still widely accessible on the worlds largest social network despite pledges by Mark Zuckerberg, the companys chief executive, to combat misinformation and other false reports on the global network. Read more from Mark Scott here or below.
GOOGLE-FITBIT V FACEBOOK-WHATSAPP: The ghost of Facebook eating WhatsApp alive in 2014 is looming over Googles planned nuptials with fitness-tracker device company Fitbit. The search giant offered $2.1 billion to acquire Fitbit. All eyes are on the Commission. At stake is Brussels credibility on data-driven mergers. Competition Pros can read more from Thibault Larger here.
Privacy concerns. Fitbit users have taken to social media to voice their concerns about the Google takeover. Fitbit vows that it will not sell or use the data of its 28 million users for Google ads, reports The Guardian.
PRIVACY FLAW IN FACEBOOKS GROUPS: Facebook announced it had found a flaw that allowed app developers to get unauthorized access to data in Groups, such as names and photos. So much for a “a privacy-focused vision for social networking.”
More bad buzz: NBC has published 7,000 leaked documents showing how Facebook treated user data as a bargaining chip with external app developers.
TWITTER EMPLOYEES OR SPIES? Two former employees of Twitter and a third man from Saudi Arabia face U.S. charges of spying for the kingdom by digging up private user data and giving it to Saudi officials in exchange for payment, a complaint from the Department of Justice shows, according to Reuters.
FINLAND SETS UP WORKING GROUP ON ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF THE TECH SECTOR: The group, which includes companies such as IBM and Nokia, has been organized by Transport and Communications Minister Sanna Marin and will run until November next year, Telecompaper reported. The objective is to draft recommendations to reduce the emissions of the tech sector. An interim report will be issued in June next year and a final one in November.
HOW MUCH CASH WILL FRANCES AUDIOVISUAL OVERHAUL GENERATE? The future new rules on TV advertising will generate €20 to 25 millions in additional revenues for broadcasters, according to Les Echos. TV channels are however overall unhappy about the upcoming reform and argue the draft legislation, expected in the coming weeks, wont be enough to help them compete against platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Speaking of TV and platforms, the European Observatory of Audiovisual released an overview of the rules in the EU on the so-called media chronology (meaning when movies can be broadcasted on TV and on online platforms.)
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False attacks on Facebook could bring a Titanic-sized disaster in 2020
False news reports that attack U.S. politicians have been viewed more than 150 million times on Facebook since the beginning of 2019, according to an analysis published Wednesday that points to a growing threat of deception swamping next years elections.
The analysis, from the activist group Avaaz, highlights how misinformation — often targeting political figures like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump — is still widely accessible on the worlds largest social network despite pledges by Mark Zuckerberg, the companys chief executive, to combat misinformation and other false reports on the global network.
The study also notes a growing sophistication in how people are being targeted on Facebook: Political actors are moving away from a strategy that focuses solely on bombarding individuals with paid-for partisan messages, toward more complex tactics that rely on presenting would-be voters with traditional shared content that does not face the same scrutiny as political ads.
Avaaz could not say if the sharing of these false reports was part of a wider online deception campaign or merely Facebook users sharing material that aligned with their political beliefs.
“Were heading towards a Titanic-sized disaster,” Fadi Quran, campaign director at Avaaz, told POLITICO in reference to the 2020 election. “Facebook is not being transparent about the problem. Theres no telling how much disinformation content is being spread.”
The findings come as Facebook continues to face criticism, especially from Democrats, for its policy of refusing to fact check campaign ads and its failure to take down some kinds of false political attacks. Those include an ad by Trumps reelection campaign making baseless accusations of corruption against former Vice President Joe Biden, as well a doctored video last spring that falsely portrayed Pelosi as