A European Commission high-level group of experts (HLEG) has published its report on policy initiatives to combat disinformation spread online.
The report issues a number of recommended actions that should be taken, both by European authorities and by relevant stakeholders in the digital media sector, to combat disinformation spread online.
The paper rejects the term “fake news”, arguing that it does not capture the scope of the problem. Instead, it defines disinformation as any form of false, inaccurate or misleading information designed to intentionally create profit or cause public harm.
What has the commission said?
Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, introduced the report by explaining the need to combat disinformation spread online, and said that the launch of the report was only the start of the process.
Gabriel listed four principles underlying her ongoing efforts to tackle disinformation spread online, which were:
- Transparency, so that citizens have clear information about news sources and funding;
- Diversity of information to fuel critical judgement;
- Credibility of information, which should be obvious to citizens; and
- Inclusivity, with commitment from all involved parties to a sustainable solution.
The commissioner explained: “My intention is to trigger a free, pluralistic, democratic, societal and economic debate in Europe.” The recommendations made by the HLEG would “fully respect fundamental EU values, [such as] freedom of speech, media pluralism and media freedom,” she added.
What were the group’s priorities?
If implemented, the HLEG’s recommendations seek to improve a number of conditions for media organisations throughout Europe, ensuring that the spread of false information is stemmed without restricting media freedom. These improvements include:
- Ensuring better media and information literacy;
- Creating a diverse and sustainable news media ecosystem;
- Fostering transparency;
- Making algorithms accountable;
- Enhancing trust; and
- Empowering users and journalists.
These aims form pillars of the approach that the HLEG recommends. The first recommendation is the creation of a self-regulatory system, generated through engagement from stakeholders across the sector.
The HLEG also suggests that the commission issue a roadmap for implementation, which would outline specific actions for compliance. As part of this process, relevant stakeholders in the digital sector – including online platforms, news media organisations, fact-checkers and journalists – should be encouraged to commit to a dedicated code of practices.