Fighting disinformation in the EU – Progress and lessons learned

On Friday, 14 June 2019, the European Commission (EC) and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission reported on the progress achieved in the fight against disinformation and the main lessons drawn from the European elections, as a contribution to the discussions among EU leaders ahead of the European Council.

The two institutions issued a joint Communication on how the Action Plan against Disinformation and the Elections Package have been instrumental in fighting disinformation and preserving the integrity of the European Parliament (EP) elections.

High Representative/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 said in a joint statement:

"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. However, 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."

EU action targeted at countering disinformation consisted of four complementary strands:

  • Strengthening the EU's capabilities to identify and counter disinformation through the setting up of the Strategic Communication Task Forces and the EU Hybrid Fusion Cell in the European External Action Service (EEAS), and the establishment of a Rapid Alert System between Member States and EU institutions.
  • Working with online platforms and industry through a voluntary Code of Practice on disinformation aimed at increasing transparency of political communications and preventing the manipulative use of social media.
  • Increasing awareness and resilience to disinformation within society, in cooperation with the EP, in particular through increased dissemination of fact-based messaging and renewed efforts to promote media literacy.
  • Supporting the Member States' efforts in securing the integrity of elections and strengthening the resilience of the Union's democratic systems via the establishment of election networks at EU and national levels, linked to the Rapid Alert System.

If the progress accomplished has been undeniable since the EU began addressing disinformation in 2015, the road ahead remains long. Before and after the European elections, evidence of coordinated malicious attempts at spreading divisive materials were reported on social media. EU institutions and Member States alike should therefore not lower their guard, especially given the ever-changing nature of the threat.

Therefore, the European Council will set the course for further policy action at its June Summit. In addition, the EC will report on the implementation of the elections package and assess the effectiveness of the Code of Practice, and consider further action on this basis.

For further information, visit the European Commission's website, view the factsheet "Action Plan against Disinformation - Report on Progress" and read the Joint report on the implementation of the Action Plan against Disinformation. You can also follow @EUvsDisinfo and @EU_MediaLit on Twitter.

Additionally, find out extensive information and resources about media literacy and disinformation in the March 2019 edition of the BIK bulletin.


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