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On 28th April 2018 the European Commission published a set of measures for tackling online disinformation. The recent Facebook / Cambridge Analytics revelation has demonstrated just how personal data can be exploited in electoral scenarios and are a fitting reminder that more is needed to secure strong democratic processes. The Commission has taken a step forward in the fight against disinformation in order to guarantee proper protection of European values and security.

Measures to combat disinformation online

The Commission proposes a series of measures to combat disinformation on the Internet, amongst which are

(1) A Code of Good Practice on Disinformation

From now on until July, as a first step, online platforms must develop and apply a common code of good practice with the objective of:

(i) guaranteeing transparency on sponsored content, particularly political advertising, as well as restricting the targeting options for this type of advertising and reducing revenues for the carriers of disinformation;

(ii) providing greater clarity about the functioning of algorithms and allowing third party verification;

(iii) making it easier for users to find and access different news sources which represent other points of view;

(iv) introducing measures to identify and close fake accounts and to deal with the matter of automatic bots:

(v) enabling data verifiers, researchers and public authorities to be able to continuously control online disinformation.

(2) An independent European network of data verifiers

This shall establish common working methods, exchange best practices and shall work to achieve the broadest possible coverage of the rectification of data across the EU. The verifiers shall be selected from the members of the International Fact Checking Network, which follows a strict International Code of Principles.

(3) A secure online European platform on disinformation

This is a support platform for the network of data verifiers and relevant university researchers thanks to the collection and analysis of cross-border data and access to data at European level.

(4) Enhancement of media literacy

A higher level of media literacy shall allow Europeans to detect online disinformation and to approach internet content from a critical perspective. For such purposes, the Commission shall encourage the data verifiers and civil society organisations to provide educational material to schools and educators and organise a European Media Literacy Week.

(5) Support for member states in ensuring the resilience of elections.

This has become necessary in light of ever more complex cyber threats, and in particular online disinformation and cyberattacks.

(6) Promotion of voluntary systems for online identification

For strengthening traceability and the identification of information providers and intensifying the confidence and reliability in online interaction and in information and its sources.

(7) Support for quality and diversified information:

 The Commission is calling on Member States to increase their support of quality journalism to guarantee a pluralistic, diverse and sustainable media environment. In 2018 a call for proposals shall be launched for the production and dissemination of quality news content on EU affairs through data journalism.

(8) A Coordinated Strategic Communication Policy

 Formulated by the Commission services to combine current and future EU initiatives on online disinformation with those of Member States. It will include outreach activities aimed at curbing false statements about Europe and tackling disinformation within and outside the EU.

 Next steps

The Commission shall soon arrange a multilateral forum with a view to establishing a framework for efficient cooperation among the relevant interested parties, including online platforms, the advertising industry and the top advertisers, and shall secure a commitment to coordinate and intensify the efforts to tackle disinformation. The first results of the efforts of the forum shall be a Code of Good Practice on Disinformation, which shall be published before July 2018 in order to have a quantifiable impact by October 2018.

The Commission shall present a progress report by December 2018. The need for adopting new measures for guaranteeing seamless control and evaluation of the planned actions shall also be studied in the report.

For more information, please contact:

Mika Otomo

11th May 2018

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