EU announces action plan for countering disinformation

countering disinformation
© iStock/AndreyPopov

The EU will today present its action plan on countering disinformation, which presents an ongoing threat to public debate and democracy.

In anticipation of the European elections in May 2019, the action plan details a number of concrete actions that can be taken by Member States countering disinformation, covering the following criteria:

  • Improving EU institutions’ capabilities for detecting and countering disinformation;
  • Strengthening joint, coordinated responses to disinformation between Member States and EU institutions;
  • Encouraging the private sector to take a greater involvement in tackling disinformation; and
  • Raising public awareness of the proliferation of disinformation.

Actions taken by the EU in the interest of countering disinformation will include implementing a rapid alert system and monitoring closely online platforms’ adherence to their codes of practice. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said: “Healthy democracy relies on open, free and fair public debate. It’s our duty to protect this space and not allow anybody to spread disinformation that fuels hatred, division, and mistrust in democracy. As the European Union, we’ve decided to act together and reinforce our response, to promote our principles, to support the resilience of our societies, within our borders and in the neighbourhood. It’s the European way to respond to one of the main challenges of our times.”

The European Commission will coordinate with the High Representative to develop and implement the steps laid out in the action plan for countering disinformation, working closely with EU Member States and the European Parliament. The rapid alert system should be in place by March 2019; and will be followed by further strengthened resources.

Andrus Ansip, the EU’s Vice-President responsible for the digital single market, said: “We need to be united and join our forces to protect our democracies against disinformation. We have seen attempts to interfere in elections and referenda, with evidence pointing to Russia as a primary source of these campaigns. To address these threats, we propose to improve coordination with Member States through a rapid alert system, reinforce our teams [countering disinformation], increase support for media and researchers; and ask online platforms to deliver on their commitments. Fighting disinformation requires a collective effort.”

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