Political advertising: Brussels is taking action against Facebook and Instagram ahead of the European elections

Political advertising
Brussels is taking action against Facebook and Instagram ahead of the European elections

The meta apps Facebook and Instagram on a smartphone. photo

© Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa

Politicians are concerned that Russia and other foreign powers are using social networks for propaganda in the EU. A new law should put a stop to this.

The European Commission has taken action on suspicion of violations of EU law has opened proceedings against the Facebook and Instagram group Meta. The Commission in Brussels announced that, among other things, it would be examined whether the US company had not adhered to European rules when dealing with political advertising.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) said her authority had created means to protect European citizens from targeted disinformation and manipulation by third countries. “If we suspect a violation of the rules, we act. This applies at all times, but especially in times of democratic elections,” said the former German defense minister.

Violations of EU law?

The alleged violations involve, among other things, Meta’s failure to adequately combat the spread of misleading advertising and disinformation campaigns in the EU. In addition, the Commission suspects that the ability of users to complain about content on the platforms does not meet the requirements of European law. In addition, Meta grants researchers inadequate access to data.

According to a new EU law, platforms such as Facebook, Otherwise they face hefty fines. The so-called DSA (Digital Services Act) is also intended to ensure that it becomes easier for users to report illegal content. In principle, large services like Facebook and Instagram have to follow more rules than small ones.

The Commission emphasizes that the initiation of the procedure merely examines a suspicion and that the authority’s preliminary assessment does not yet represent a final result. The commission will continue to collect evidence, for example through interviews. In addition, the EU Commission could theoretically accept concessions from Meta.

EU Commissioner Breton warned Facebook back in October

In October, EU Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton warned Facebook about too much manipulated content on the platform in connection with elections. Breton wrote that he wanted to be informed immediately about the details of the measures Facebook has taken to curb counterfeiting, including with a view to upcoming elections in the EU. The European Parliament will be re-elected in the summer.

Many in the EU believe that Russia is trying to influence the elections. Belgium recently made public that intelligence information showed that there were attempts to have as many Russia-friendly representatives elected to the European Parliament as possible. Last week, the Belgian EU Council Presidency triggered the international community’s crisis reaction mechanism (IPCR), which is intended to enable closer exchanges about ongoing measures against Russian influence.

Proceedings are already underway against the online platform Tiktok and the short message service X (formerly Twitter). Tiktok is examining whether the Chinese company is endangering the mental health of minors with its app version Tiktok Lite. After reports of illegal and misleading contributions to the Islamist Hamas attack on Israel, X was sent a list of questions, which the company apparently did not answer to the satisfaction of the EU Commission. Proceedings against X were initiated in mid-December.


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