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Russian propaganda singled out as EU moves against fake news and foreign electoral interference

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Russian propaganda singled out as EU moves against fake news and foreign electoral interference

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(BRUSSELS) - The threat to democracy posed by the "highly dangerous nature of Russian propaganda" was singled out by the European Parliament Thursday as it called for stronger action to counter disinformation.

In a resolution adopted in plenary session, MEPs warned of the serious threat that European democratic societies faced from foreign electoral interference, "to the benefit of anti-EU, right-wing extremist and populist forces".

The Parliament voiced deep concern in particular about the "highly dangerous nature of Russian propaganda", which is the main source of disinformation in Europe and which has doubled since January 2019 (998 cases) as compared to 2018 (434 cases).

MEPs also strongly condemn "aggressive actions" from non-European countries seeking to undermine the sovereignty of EU accession countries in the Western Balkans and Eastern partnership countries.

In the resolution, Parliament points out that foreign interference has a systematic pattern, be it through campaigns on social media, cyber-attacks on infrastructure related to elections or financial support to political parties in the run-up to all major national and European elections. Much of this interference benefits anti-EU, extremist and populist candidates.

Despite a ban by EU Member States on full or partial foreign donations to political parties or candidates, foreign actors find ways to circumvent those rules, say MEPs, singling out cases of the Front National in France, and allegations reported by media on the Freedom Party in Austria, Lega in Italy and in the UK.

Calling for action, the MEPs said they wanted to see an upgrade of the EU's 'East StratCom Task Force' to a permanent structure with significantly higher financing. They also called on internet and social media companies to cooperate in countering disinformation, without undermining freedom of speech and on the EU to create a legal framework to counter hybrid threats.

The East StratCom Task Force was set up in the European External Action Service (EEAS) to effectively communicate the EU´s policies towards its eastern neighbourhood. In October 2018, ahead of the European elections, a Code of Practice was signed by Facebook, Google, Twitter and Mozilla, and by Microsoft in 2019, in which they agreed on a voluntary basis to self-regulatory standards to fight disinformation. In December 2018, the Commission published an Action Plan against Disinformation.

Before the end of 2020, more than 50 presidential, national, local or regional elections are due to be held in member states.

Further information, European Parliament

Adopted text (10.10.2019)

Procedure file

Commission Communication: Report on the implementation of the Action Plan Against Disinformation, 14.06.2019

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