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E.U. Law Sets the Stage for a Clash Over Disinformation


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Robert Fico, left, heads Slovakias SMER party.

As Slovakia heads toward an election this weekend, it has been inundated with disinformation and other harmful content on social media sites.

Credit: Jakub Gavlak/EPA/Shutterstock

The Facebook page in Slovakia called Som z dediny, which means "I'm from the village," trumpeted a debunked Russian claim last month that Ukraine's president had secretly purchased a vacation home in Egypt under his mother-in-law's name.

A post on Telegram — later recycled on Instagram and other sites — suggested that a parliamentary candidate in the country's coming election had died from a Covid vaccine, though he remains very much alive. A far-right leader posted on Facebook a photograph of refugees in Slovakia doctored to include an African man brandishing a machete.

As Slovakia heads toward an election on Saturday, the country has been inundated with disinformation and other harmful content on social media sites. What is different now is a new European Union law that could force the world's social media platforms to do more to fight it — or else face fines of up to 6 percent of a company's revenue.

The law, the Digital Services Act, is intended to force social media giants to adopt new policies and practices to address accusations that they routinely host — and, through their algorithms, popularize — corrosive content. If the measure is successful, as officials and experts hope, its effects could extend far beyond Europe, changing company policies in the United States and elsewhere.

From The New York Times
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