Monday

20th Feb 2017

EU raises alarm on fake news and hacking

  • Ansip: "I believe in self-regulatory measures" (Photo: European Parliament)

EU commissioners have raised fresh concerns about fake news and hacking in Europe, but warned that there are “no easy solutions”.

Andrus Ansip, a former Estonian prime minister who is in charge of the digital single market, and Vera Jourova, a Czech politician who holds the justice portfolio, spoke to press in Brussels on Tuesday (10 January).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Jourova: "We both lived for a long time under the dictatorship of the ministries of truth" (Photo: European Parliament)

“About fake news - it’s a popular topic, a hot topic, but [there are] no easy solutions”, Ansip said.

“I believe in self-regulatory measures. Fake news is a bad thing, but according to my understanding, the ministry of truth is also bad,” he said, referring to a totalitarian institution in the dystopian novel 1984 by British writer George Orwell.

Jourova also called for “good and responsible decisions in this sphere” by individual member states.

“We both lived for a long time under the dictatorship of the ministries of truth and that’s why I think we’re both very sensitive about this”, she added, referring to communist-era and Soviet-era rule in her and in Ansip’s home countries.

Ansip said that hacking could be more easily dealt with.

He said that when Estonia suffered a cyber attack after it removed a Soviet monument from Tallinn in 2007 “cooperation between different services and computer response teams … were able to cut [the] majority of those attacks even before they crossed our borders."

He added that “no single member state, it doesn't matter, big or small, is able to deal with cyber security issues alone”, however.

He said the commission would like to spend €1.8 billion more on research into cyber security, that EU states should spend more of their military budgets on cyber defence, and that CERTs - national anti-hacking bodies - should work more closely together.

"If it’s clear what kind of weapons the bad guys are using then it’s also easier to defend ourselves,” he said.

Trump reports

The fake news trend hit the headlines on Tuesday when US president-elect Donald Trump denounced reports which said that Russian intelligence had material that it could use to blackmail him.

The reports were based on leaked files that were purportedly written by a former British spy. One file said that Russian intelligence had filmed Trump watching prostitutes urinate on each other at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Moscow in 2013.

“FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”, Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump, as with the Brexit campaign and British tabloids, had earlier profited from fake stories designed to advance his cause.

Trump also profited from alleged Russian hacking of his opponent's, Hilary Clinton’s, emails.

Meanwhile, Russian and pro-Russian media this week ran fake reports that the US had sent more than 3,000 tanks to Europe as preparations for a “war” against Russia.

The number of tanks was 87 and they were sent to deter Russian aggression.

Hack the EU

The risk that Russian hackers, media, and trolls would try to sway upcoming elections in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Sweden was highlighted in a recent study by US intelligence services.

British, French, German, and Swedish security chiefs and experts have also warned of a spike in Russian hacking in the EU.

Julian King, the EU security commissioner, told the Financial Times newspaper on Monday that EU institutions are being targeted as well.

He said there was a 20 percent spike in attempted hacks on European Commission servers last year.

“It’s clear that many institutions across Europe and more widely, and that includes the European Commission, are subject to a continuously increasing number of cyber attacks from different sources,” he said.

Breitbart

Russia is not the only culprit on fake news.

EU sources are equally concerned about misleading anti-EU stories in British tabloid newspapers.

Breitbart, a US pro-Trump website that propagates hard-right views, is also expanding in Europe, with new offices in Berlin, Paris, and Rome.

On 3 January, it reported that a “1,000-man mob” had chanted Islamist slogans, clashed with police, and set fire to a church in Dortmund, Germany, but that authorities had hushed it up.

Dortmund police debunked the report, but Breitbart did not retract it.

The Breitbart story echoed a fake Russian story last year that migrants had raped a German girl and that authorities had hushed it up.

The EU foreign service has a small team of officials and diplomats tasked with debunking foreign propaganda, but calls by MEPs to expand the unit’s personnel and funding have fallen on deaf ears.

Brexit men launch anti-EU website

Westmonster, modelled on hard-right US websites, said it was: "Pro-Brexit, pro-Farage, pro-Trump. Anti-establishment".

Opinion

Africa is our destiny

U2's Bono writes that Africa should be at the centre of political leader's thoughts at the latest G20 foreign minister's summit and the Munich security conference this coming week.

News in Brief

  1. Migrants storm Spanish enclave of Ceuta
  2. Spain's princess fined for tax fraud, husband sentenced
  3. EU to invest millions in energy infrastructure
  4. Dutch data watchdog forces online vote aides to up security
  5. EU allows Lithuania to ban Russian tv channel
  6. Finland announces increase in defence spending
  7. Ex-PM Blair says Brits should 'rise up' against Brexit
  8. Nato chief says facts to prevail over fake news

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  4. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  5. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  7. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  8. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  9. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  10. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data
  11. Malta EU 2017Landmark Deal Reached With European Parliament on Portability of Online Content
  12. Belgrade Security ForumBSF 2017: Building a Common Future in the Age of Uncertainty

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. CESIEU Not to Revise the Working Time Directive
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsAzerbaijan: 76 NGOs Urge the EU to Use President's Visit to Insist on Human Rights Reforms
  3. UNICEFDeadliest Winter for Migrant Children Crossing the Central Mediterranean
  4. World VisionGaza Staff Member Pleads Not Guilty
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region First to Consider Complete Ban on Microplastics in Cosmetics
  6. Dialogue PlatformWhy the West 'Failed to Understand' Turkey
  7. European Jewish CongressInternational Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony
  8. European Free AllianceCatalan Independence Referendum: A Matter of Democracy
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsKyrgyzstan: No Justice for Human Rights Defender Azimjan Askarov
  10. Dialogue PlatformThe Influence of Turkish Politics in Europe After the Coup Attempt
  11. World VisionEU Urged to Do Better Ahead of Helsinki Conference on Syria
  12. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children