Brussels proposes plan to combat Fake News
Last Wednesday the European Union’s executive proposed investing more funds to counter fake news on the Internet, establishing an early warning system to alert governments and pushing tech companies do more to stop disinformation before next year’s EU elections.
According to the proposed plan, Brussels aims to strengthen the three units available to the European Commission to combat disinformation campaigns from areas such as Russia, the Middle East, North Africa and the Western Balkans.
The Commission also suggested that a “rapid alert system” must be implemented to ensure “the joint and coordinated response” of all EU partners against propaganda attacks that tend to be concentrated in the most sensitive moments of the national policy of each country or when elections are approaching.
The approval of the plan arrives surrounded by controversy on the division within the Commission on the possible direct accusations to Russia as a presumed source of the disinformation campaigns that periodically strike the European countries.
Community sources recognize that Russia represents the biggest threat to Europe as a source of misinformation. The fear is supported, according to these sources, by the evaluations carried out by the so-called “EU fusion cell against hybrid threats”, a surveillance unit integrated in the EU Intelligence Analysis Center.
The community body, on the other hand, has no doubts about the urgent need to act as soon as possible to ensure that the electoral processes are carried out in a clean manner and without major distortions from outside the EU.
“An urgent intervention is more necessary than ever before given the evolution of the techniques and instruments used to create and disseminate misinformation,” Commission warns in the official statement. The document will be transferred to the European summit to be held in Brussels later this week, where the 28 presidents of the Union Government hope to agree on the protection of the European elections.
Monitoring of the Social Media
The proposed action plan also includes the monitoring of social media. Tech giants such as Facebook, along with Google, Twitter and others will be asked to provide reports from January to May, one official said. The information, which would be compiled by the European Commission, would then be published as a report, to create awareness among European voters on how foreign actors try to influence their vote. The report would also include figures on how they label political adverts as well as how many bot accounts and fake accounts they identify and disable.
The tech giants are committed to hinder advertising revenues received by web pages dedicated to misinformation and to stop the use of false accounts and bots to disseminate deliberately distorted news.
The impact of digital platforms is increasing
The Commission believes that the problem has been aggravated by the transformation of information channels, with the displacement of traditional media and the entry of digital platforms that act as “aggregators and distributors of content without necessarily adopting the editorial structures and functions of said means “.
The transfer of users has put in check the business model of the written press in Europe, whose revenues between 2010 and 2014 suffered a fall of more than €13 billion compared to an increase in digital formats of almost €4 billion.
The action plan suggests the introduction of support measures to facilitate cross-border cooperation between media and the creation of independent teams of data checkers (fact-checkers), as well as the future launch of targeted campaigns to inculcate the state of alert in public opinion against possible misrepresentations.