The European Union has gained a lot of fame recently as it has adjusted its perspective on Big Tech. From letting them do whatever they please to now cracking down on monopolistic practices and ensuring that these major companies do not go unregulated.
However, the EU isn’t always fighting against Big Tech, sometimes it’s fighting alongside it. Such is the case with a new set of rules proposed by the EU, and subsequently agreed upon by 33 major tech corporations, pertaining to combating the prevalence of disinformation in our digital lives. The name of which is:
2022 Strengthened Code of Practice on Disinformation
Part of the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), there exists something called the “2018 Code of Practice on Disinformation“. This code of practice already contains a course of action on how to take initiative against fabricated news, but, now, a 2022 revision has been brought forward for companies to be even better-equipped to fight online deception.
The need for a revised set of rules stemmed from freshly-learned experiences of false mass indoctrination in the heights of the pandemic and the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict. These events have taught us a lot about fake news and conditioned us to only rely on sources close to us. The EU aims to build upon these factors.
The updated Code of Practice now includes 128 specific measures and 44 commitments to reduce disinformation into obscurity, until it’s eventually nonexistent. A few examples would be better transparency of political campaigning, demonetization, and giving more significance to fact-checkers around the globe.
Many Big Tech names such as Google, Meta (formerly Facebook) and Microsoft, among others, have signed on this agreement, advocating to rid disinformation. However, one name is crucially missing from this list and that is Apple.
Apple’s screaming absence
Apple is one of the, if not the biggest name in all of tech. It’s the world’s largest and most profitable company. More importantly, though, it’s an industry-leader when it comes to user privacy. You may remember how Apple’s implementation of its App Tracking Transparency framework into popular apps caused a ruckus last year.
In iOS 14.5, Apple introduced a feature that would make it mandatory for all apps collecting user data to be transparent about tracking the user. A simple prompt would appear as you launch the app with two options available, one allowing the app to track and function as normal while the other asking the app not to track.
This one simple prompt ended up costing ad and tracking agencies billions of dollars as users voluntary opted out of being tracked. Apple was, deservedly, very proud of this feature and defended it ferociously. And that’s exactly why its absence today from EU’s updated Code of Practice on disinformation is strange.
Apple’s support in fighting this battle will be massively impactful given the sheer power of the brand. It makes hardware and software on which the disinformation can be potentially accessed so it’s almost an obligation for Apple to get onboard.
It’s also worth mentioning that while Apple stands up to third-party app tracking, it deliberately does not hold its own apps up to the same standard, meaning that the choice to be tracked or not is not put in the user’s hands when it comes to Apple’s in-house apps.
Moreover, the European Union and Apple aren’t exactly buddies when it comes to regulation. By now, we’ve all heard the USB Type-C standardization push by the EU that’s biting Apple in the back who’s still shipping many of its products with Lightning ports. That’s just one of the many areas where the EU has Apple pegged against the wall, so it’s not surprising the company wouldn’t want to help the EU in one of their endeavors.
Now, just because Apple isn’t currently on the list doesn’t mean it can’t join down the line. The current signees are part of a Task Force that meet regularly to monitor progress on their efforts. Apple can eventually become part of this Task Force as well if it wishes to. It’s important to note that this is an optional program companies can become a part of, not something compulsory, which explains Apple’s calm demeanor here.
The European Union has given each company in this Task Force six months to put these new measures and commitments into practice. You can check out the full list of all the companies who signed the new agreement here.