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Russian interference prompts EU action against disinformation

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Russian interference prompts EU action against disinformation

Andrus Ansip - Photo EC

(BRUSSELS) - Europe needs to join forces to protect its democracies against Russia's interference in elections and referenda, the EU Commission said Wednesday as it unveiled an action plan to counter disinformation.

"We have seen attempts to interfere in elections and referenda, with evidence pointing to Russia as a primary source of these campaigns," said EC vice-president for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip: "To address these threats, we propose to improve coordination with Member States through a Rapid Alert System, reinforce our teams exposing disinformation, increase support for media and researchers, and ask online platforms to deliver on their commitments."

The Commission's Action Plan also foresees an increase of resources devoted to the issue.

The EU executive says it is issuing the Action Plan "to protect its democratic systems and public debates and in view of the 2019 European elections as well as a number of national and local elections that will be held in Member States by 2020".

The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said it was the EU's duty "to protect this space and not allow anybody to spread disinformation that fuels hatred, division, and mistrust in democracy".

The plan focuses on four areas to build up the EU's capabilities and strengthen cooperation between Member States and the EU:

  • Improved detection: Strategic Communication Task Forces and the EU Hybrid Fusion Cell in the European External Action Service (EEAS), as well as the EU delegations in the neighbourhood countries will be reinforced with significant additional specialised staff and data analysis tools. The EEAS' strategic communication budget to address disinformation and raise awareness about its adverse impact is expected to more than double, from €1.9 million in 2018 to €5 million in 2019. EU Member States should complement these measures by reinforcing their own means to deal with disinformation.
  • Coordinated response: A dedicated Rapid Alert System will be set up among the EU institutions and Member States to facilitate the sharing of data and assessments of disinformation campaigns and to provide alerts on disinformation threats in real time. The EU institutions and Member States will also focus on proactive and objective communication on Union values and policies.
  • Online platforms and industry:The signatories of the Code of Practice should swiftly and effectively implement the commitments made under the Code of Practice, focusing on actions that are urgent for the European elections in 2019. This includes in particular ensuring transparency of political advertising, stepping up efforts to close active fake accounts, labelling non-human interactions (messages spread automatically by 'bots') and cooperating with fact-checkers and academic researchers to detect disinformation campaigns and make fact-checked content more visible and widespread. The Commission, with the help of the European group of regulators in charge of audio-visual media services, will ensure a close and continuous monitoring of the implementation of the commitments.
  • Raising awareness and empowering citizens: In addition to targeted awareness campaigns, the EU institutions and Member States will promote media literacy through dedicated programmes. Support will be provided to national multidisciplinary teams of independent fact-checkers and researchers to detect and expose disinformation campaigns across social networks.

The Commission also today issued a report on progress made in tackling online disinformation since the presentation of its Communication in April 2018.

Action Plan Against Disinformation

EU action against disinformation - background guide

Factsheet: Action plan against disinformation

Communication on tackling online disinformation: a European approach

Report on progress made in the implementation of the April Communication

EU vs disinfo website

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