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Following a similar positive initiative launched last year for the General Parliamentary elections,[1] on May 15, 2019 the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM) published on its website a document enlisting a series of commitments undertaken by digital platforms for the ongoing electoral campaign for the European Parliamentary elections. This second effort shows that, through a successful cooperation with the major stakeholders, the Authority is particularly watchful in promoting the adoptions by online platforms of instruments to implement certain principles, provided by the law for offline media, during the election period.

The paper is the result of discussions entertained in the context of the Technical Roundtable on Pluralism and Online Platforms (instituted by AGCOM in 2017). The platforms’ commitments are divided in 8 categories and touch pretty much all the sensitive topics, from equal access to the prohibition of political propaganda during election day and day before. The undertakings have been discussed considering the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation signed on September 26, 2018[2].

1. Equal treatment in accessing digital platforms

The online platforms undertake to guarantee equal access to all political actors, similarly to what Law no. 28 of 2000 secures for offline media. It is left to the discretion of platforms the identification of the instruments to be adopted, in compliance with the proportionality principle.

2. Transparency of political propaganda

The online platforms commit to inform users about the electoral nature of the ads and about the identity of the political subject. Certain data and information on the ads, including the explanation of the criteria adopted to profile the user, should be accessible through a hyperlink next to the piece of content, to the extent it is technically possible.

3. Reporting and removing fake contents

Platforms commit to prioritize the analysis of content infringing the equal treatment during the electoral period (par condicio), as soon as it is reported pursuant to an ad hoc procedure. Platforms shall make available to users and political subjects tools to report messages potentially infringing the law or the terms of use of the platform.

4. Fact-checking during the elections

Transparency is of the essence, especially when it comes to electoral campaigns. AGCOM encourages platforms to adopt fact checking mechanisms, engaging organizations which promote participative/cooperative fact-checking, with the purpose of reducing engagement with content that has been identified as false. The platforms should periodically issue reports on such activities.

5. Integrity of services

Platforms undertake to tackle the bots and fake accounts phenomenon, especially concerning accounts of electoral ads, and to inform the Authority about the activities implemented.

6. Messages from Public Administrations

Current Italian legislation allows Public Administrations, during electoral campaigns, to use their channels only to make impersonal, indispensable, and unavoidable communications. This applies also to their social media accounts.

On one hand, AGCOM requests platforms to inform it about infringements to the above prohibition; and, on the other hand, the Authority reserves the right to report any infringements to the platforms. Further, on Public Administrations’ social pages it is forbidden to post electoral ads.

7. Forbidding on-line polls

Under Law no. 28 of 2000, it is forbidden to disclose the outcome of political polls during the 15 days before election day. Platforms commit to deploy tools allowing Authority to report and request removal infringing content.

8. The so-called “Blackout period”

Finally, Italian legislation prohibits political propaganda on election day and on the day before. Although AGCOM is not competent for ascertaining infringements of said prohibition, it considers important to call everyone to turn the attention on these provisions.

Indeed, they are important to guarantee effective protections of the constituents. As such, in the Authority’s opinion, the prohibition applies to all media.

Articolo inserito in: Internet & Ecommerce
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