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Facebook and Instagram under the microscope of the European Commission

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The European Commission will investigate whether Facebook and Instagram comply with digital law regarding the proper labeling of advertising messages and the freedom to publish political content. It will also check whether the platforms have enabled users to report irregularities. – We suspect that Meta's moderation is insufficient, said EU Commissioner for Digital Affairs Margrethe Vestager.

The European Commission on Tuesday initiated formal proceedings against Facebook and Instagram on suspicions that the websites have violated the EU Digital Services Act.

The accusation concerns, among others: lack of labeling of advertising content, limiting political content and failure to counteract disinformation.

EU digital advertising rules

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According to the EU's Digital Services Act (DSA), very large platforms, i.e. those with 45 million active users in the EU, which include Facebook and Instagram, must comply with strict rules regarding, among others, risk assessment and content moderation.

Meanwhile, the European Commission accused both platforms on Tuesday of failing to comply with these regulations, including failing to prevent the publication and dissemination of misleading advertisements on their websites.

False or deceptive advertisements are materials designed in such a way as to omit important information about the product (which, after purchase, turns out to be completely different than on the website), unjustifiably promoting the product as ecological or falsely presenting it – e.g. the seller artificially raises the price of the product to then allegedly lower it.

All these unfair practices that are aimed at persuading the consumer to make purchases, under new regulations are prohibited in the EU.

The accusation of limiting political content

The investigation will also focus on allegations of spreading disinformation on websites and enabling coordinated inauthentic campaigns, e.g. by using fake accounts set up on platforms.

The suspected violations also concern the incorrect policy of Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, regarding political content. The Commission accuses the websites of removing political content from Facebook and Instagram's recommendation systems and blocking political channels. Meanwhile, under DSA rules, platforms are only required to clearly label political ads and include information about who bought them and why they are targeted at specific audiences, rather than destroying them.

– In the case of political advertisements, it is required to mark this type of materials and not limit their visibility – explained EC spokesman Johannes Bahrke on Tuesday at a meeting with journalists. He admitted that the EC is monitoring how political content is published online, especially now, before the June elections to the European Parliament.

Other allegations

The Commission will also examine whether the platforms enabled users to report irregularities and pursue their claims, e.g. complaints when their materials were blocked by the website.

The institution also expects Meta to explain why it abandoned the CrowdTangle tool, which enables scientists, journalists and civic organizations to monitor elections in real time, but did not replace it with a new one.

– Deceptive advertising poses a threat to our online debate and ultimately to our rights as both consumers and citizens. We suspect that Meta's moderation is insufficient, there is a lack of transparency in advertising and content moderation procedures,” commented EU Commissioner for Digital Affairs Margrethe Vestager.

Corrective action

Meta now has five working days to provide the Commission with explanations and ensure that corrective action is taken, including the immediate release of a tool that will allow public monitoring of content shared on the platforms, especially in the period before and during the European elections.

If Meta fails to comply with the order, the EC reserves the right to take action, including imposing financial penalties on the websites. These can be up to 6%. the company's annual turnover.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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