European Commission takes measures to fight disinformation around COVID-19

Misinformation on matters of public health is not a new phenomenon, but it has seen a sudden rise since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Disinformation and fake news are rife, with some claiming that the coronavirus is a biological weapon created for various purposes, that zinc kills the virus, or that Big Pharma is exaggerating the importance of the pandemic to boost sales.

The circulation of erroneous information online can cause great harm in many ways. First and foremost, if even part of the population falls for bogus medical advice, it will put their health in danger and further aggravate the ongoing public health crisis. But the problem runs deeper, as demonstrated by the range of coordinated disinformation attacks emanating from foreign organisations, carried out on a massive scale, aiming to exploit the crisis in order to damage trust in governments and media, to sow discord in Western societies, and to undermine European solidarity.

As part of its wider common European response to the coronavirus outbreak, the European Commission (EC) has taken steps to address disinformation, firstly recommending that everyone stick to the advice and updates coming directly from trusted sources such as national public health authorities, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Through its Fighting disinformation page, the EC is also setting the facts straight – on the gravity of the virus, on the availability of a cure, on the link between the coronavirus and 5G technologies, and so on – in order to debunk the most common myths around COVID-19. To better protect consumers, the EC has also addressed online scams related to products that allegedly can cure or prevent the COVID-19 infection, with a dedicated page on the topic.

In addition, because the pandemic "may cause significant disruption to the provision of education, training and mobility opportunities for learners, teachers and educators across the EU", the EC is also offering a number of online toolsonline platforms and EU-funded projects – to connect educators and learners with each other, to access information and environments not usually available in every home or institution, and to support the continued professional development of educators in a flexible way.

On Better Internet for Kids (BIK), we'll be bringing you a range of articles and insights on the opportunities and challenges of being online during COVID-19 for the duration of the crisis. Keep checking the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal and follow our social channels on Twitter (@Insafenetwork and @SafeInternetDay) and Facebook (@SaferInternet and @SaferInternetDay) for the latest news, information, advice and resources from the Insafe network and from other stakeholder organisations on staying safe online during the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, for localised help and support in responding to some of the online challenges which COVID-19 might present, please do reach out to your national Safer Internet Centre (SIC) – find profile information and contact details on the BIK portal. In addition to a range of articles and resources in national languages, European Safer Internet Centres also provide helpline services allowing children and young people, and parents and carers, to access personalised advice and support.


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June 2020 BIK bulletin - Focus on freedom of expression online in the age of disinformation

On Thursday, 11 June 2020, at the European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG 2020), the Insafe network of European Safer Internet Centres (SICs) hosted a workshop on "Social media – opportunities, rights and responsibilities", looking at the limitations and pitfalls of freedom of speech on the internet from multiple stakeholder perspectives. Here, we reflect on the topic, with additional contributions from some of the workshop speakers.

The infodemic pandemic – how do we counter the spread of fake news?

  • Awareness
  • 29/06/2020
  • Liz Corbin, European Broadcasting Union (EBU)

On Thursday, 11 June 2020, at the European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG 2020), the Insafe network of European Safer Internet Centres (SICs), represented by Sabrina Vorbau, Project Manager at European Schoolnet (EUN) and Youth Coordinator on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) project and Joachim Kind, Head of EU Networks at the Media Authority of Rhineland-Palatinate (LMK) and spokesperson for the German Safer Internet Centre (SIC), hosted a workshop on "Social media – opportunities, rights and responsibilities", looking at the limitations and pitfalls of freedom of speech on the internet from multiple stakeholder perspectives. In this article, Liz Corbin, Deputy Media Director and Head of News at the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) shares her thoughts on the spread of fake news, with particular reference to the "infodemic" which has occurred in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. As she illustrates, fake news infects everything... but public service media is stopping the spread.

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Lithuanian Safer Internet Centre: COVID-19 resources

The Lithuanian Safer Internet Centre has published a number of articles and resources (in Lithuanian) on staying safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you can find them organised by topic.

Italian Safer Internet Centre: COVID-19 resources

The Italian Safer Internet Centre has published a number of articles and resources (in Italian) on safe emergency remote teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find them below.

European Safer Internet Centre resources in response to COVID-19

Through Better Internet for Kids (BIK), and the European Network of Safer Internet Centres (SICs), our aim is to empower children and young people to remain safe online, and equally assist those that support them. During the time of the coronavirus pandemic, Safer Internet Centres can provide an excellent source of localised help and advice, for parents and carers especially, in responding to some of the online challenges which COVID-19 might present.

COVID-19 – using tech in a positive way

We are hearing a lot about how technology can be misused and abused, and about how criminals are exploiting the current situation with an increase in scams and similar. It's important to remember, however, the many positive ways in which technology is connecting people, and providing hope, education and entertainment for the millions who are now forced to stay at home.