The European Commission and High Representative have released a report detailing the EU’s progress in its fight against disinformation.
Concerns over disinformation and democracy in the EU ran high in the lead up to the European elections in May this year. The Commission established a voluntary Code of Practice on Disinformation to regulate the dissemination of falsehoods on social media platforms; the monthly reports produced by Facebook, Google and Twitter under the code have shown consistent improvement on addressing issues around disinformation, particularly on targeted political advertising.
High Representative and Vice President Federica Mogherini, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová, Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King, and Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel issued a joint statement saying: “The record high turnout in the European Parliament elections has underlined the increased interest of citizens in European democracy. Our actions, including the setting-up of election networks at national and European level, helped in protecting our democracy from attempts at manipulation. We are confident that our efforts have contributed to limit the impact of disinformation operations, including from foreign actors, through closer coordination between the EU and Member States.”
The Commission’s report identified four measures actively taken by the EU which appeared to have reduced the potential impact of disinformation on the elections:
- Expanding its capabilities to identify and address online disinformation through the work of the Strategic Communication Task Forces and the European External Action Service’s EU Hybrid Fusion Cell;
- Implementing the Code of Practice on Disinformation to increase transparency online;
- Boosting public awareness of the prevalence of disinformation; and
- High levels of Commission support for Member States in ensuring the integrity of their democratic processes, as well as strong co-operative links between Member States.
The Commissioners’ statement continued: “Much remains to be done. The European elections were not after all free from disinformation; we should not accept this as the new normal. Malign actors constantly change their strategies. We must strive to be ahead of them. Fighting disinformation is a common, long term challenge for EU institutions and Member States. Ahead of the elections, we saw evidence of coordinated inauthentic behaviour aimed at spreading divisive material on online platforms, including through the use of bots and fake accounts. So online platforms have a particular responsibility to tackle disinformation. With our active support, Facebook, Google and Twitter have made some progress under the Code of Practice on disinformation. The latest monthly reports, which we are publishing today, confirm this trend. We now expect online platforms to maintain momentum and to step up their efforts and implement all commitments under the Code.”