EU step up campaign against fake news | Jeremy spell blog

The EU took steps Wednesday to protect
upcoming elections against fake news and
disinformation campaigns from suspects
like Russia, launching a bloc-wide alert
system.
It also plans to mount more pressure on
internet giants such as Facebook to render
more help.
Officials said their campaign will try to blunt
the hatred and divisions fuelling the rise of
right-wing and populist parties in a number
of European countries.
“We need to be united and join our forces
to protect our democracies against
disinformation,” said Andrus Ansip, the EU’s
vice president for the digital single market.
“We have seen attempts to interfere in
elections and referenda, with evidence
pointing to Russia as a primary source of
these campaigns,” Ansip added.
European Union officials said they are
taking steps to protect democracies and
public debate ahead of elections in May to
the European Parliament as well as before
dozens of elections in member countries
through 2020.
The European Commission, the executive
arm of the 28-nation bloc, called for a
system in which EU bodies and member
states alert each other to disinformation in
real time.
Set for March, the system will allow
members to share data and analysis on
propaganda campaigns and promote what
the bloc says will be objective
communications about its values and
policies.
The plan will boost the Commission’s
budget to tackle disinformation and raise
awareness from 1.9 million euros to five
million euros next year.
This will allow for an increase in staff and
equipment in Brussels and among EU
delegations to third countries. EU member
countries are also urged to try to match the
efforts.
The Commission also asked Facebook,
Google, Twitter and Mozilla as well as online
and advertising trade associations to
“swiftly and effectively” act on pledges
made last month to fight disinformation.
These include ensuring the transparency of
political advertising, closing active fake
accounts and flagging messages spread
automatically by “bots”.
They also include cooperating with
academic researchers to detect
disinformation campaigns and making fact-
checked content more visible and
widespread.
The Commission said it will work with
European regulators of audio-visual media
services to constantly monitor whether the
pledges are being carried out fully.
“We will impose very big pressure on them
to do what they promised to do,” the
commission’s justice commissioner Vera
Jourova told reporters in Brussels.
The Commission warned it could take
“regulatory” action if the online platforms
fail to honour the pledges they signed in a
code of practice last month.
Facebook set up a “war room” in October
to fight against misinformation and
manipulation by foreign actors trying to
influence elections worldwide.
It was responding to accusations it had
done too little to prevent misinformation
efforts by Russia and others in the 2016 US
election.
In line with US intelligence assessments, the
EU officials highlighted in particular the
threat of disinformation from a newly
assertive Russia.
“Disinformation is part of Russia’s military
doctrine and its strategy to divide and
weaken the west,” Ansip, a former prime
minister of Estonia, told reporters.
Ansip, whose country is especially wary of
Moscow after decades under Soviet rule,
said Russia spent 1.1 billion euros a year on
pro-Kremlin media.
He also referred to “a troll factory” in Saint
Petersburg, the so-called “Internet Research
Agency”, which a US court says tried to
influence the 2016 presidential election,
and to Russian “bot armies”.
In Europe, Britain is investigating whether
Russia tried to influence the vote for Brexit
in 2016.
In France’s 2017 presidential elections, a
Moscow-backed news site ran allegations
aimed at discrediting Emmanuel Macron
against right-wing rival Marine Le Pen.
“Healthy democracy relies on open, free and
fair public debate,” the EU’s foreign policy
chief Federica Mogherini said.
“It’s our duty to protect this space and not
allow anybody to spread disinformation
that fuels hatred, division, and mistrust in
democracy,” she said.

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