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EBU calls on European Commission to recognize the vital role of media in approach to online election integrity

12 March 2024
EBU calls on European Commission to recognize the vital role of media in approach to online election integrity

On 7 March 2024, the EBU submitted a critical view on the European Commission’s draft Guidelines on the integrity of electoral processes. The Guidelines aim to present Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and Very Large Online Search Engines (VLOSEs) with recommendations on how to address systemic risks within their services that may threaten election integrity.

Wouter Gekiere, Head of the Brussels Office, EBU, said: “We are disappointed by the Commission’s half-hearted approach towards media in these draft Guidelines. It cannot be that the ‘vital role’ of journalists and media providers is only mentioned in passing in the proposed mitigation measures. The disinformation challenge can only be tackled if platforms finally stop promoting sensationalist content and instead ensure access to and visibility of credible news on their services.”

In contrast, recent announcements by Meta seem to go in the opposite direction, with a blog post that expressly states that Facebook and Instagram will reduce exposure, or down-rank, political content. If this includes editorial content produced under high editorial standards on political affairs, this is a clear threat to the citizens’ ability to inform themselves properly about politics and thus to the integrity of elections.

In the contribution, the EBU calls on the European Commission to

  • better reflect on the crucial role that independent media and their journalists play in gathering, processing, and reporting fact-checked information on politics and elections.
  • invite VLOPs and VLOSEs to cooperate and engage meaningfully with the media.
  • carefully consider the risks posed by VLOPs’ and VLOSEs’ algorithms and recommender systems regarding the integrity of electoral processes, given that platforms tend to surface sensationalist content instead of content produced by credible sources.
  • remind VLOPs and VLOSEs of the importance of ensuring the availability of trustworthy media content, such as news and current affairs programmes, related to politics and elections.

The EBU also asks the Commission to include positive measures in the Guidelines to promote media pluralism and freedom of expression including the right to information online. VLOPs and VLOSEs should take measures to ensure the prominence of general interest media services and clearly attribute editorial content to its source.

Download our response to the public consultation on the right for more details.

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Documents

EBU Contribution to the Consultation on Guidelines for Providers of VLOPs and VLOSEs on the Mitigation of Systemic Risks for Electoral Processes