Sunday

27th May 2018

EU Commission to target fake news

The European Commission plans on tackling fake news as part of a broader effort to protect democracy.

"Fake news is a direct threat to the very foundations of our democratic society," EU commissioner for digital economy, Mariya Gabriel said on Monday (13 November).

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.

Speaking at a conference on fake news in Brussels, Gabriel announced plans to set up an expert panel that will feed into possible legislation later on.

"European citizens need to have the skills and tools at their disposal to manage the ocean of information available online, that is our challenge," she said.

The commissioner is asking people from the world of academia and civil society to take part.

The idea is to have the panel, or so-called expert group, up and running at the start of next year ahead of an upcoming European Commission communication on fake news.

A separate European Commission public consultation was also launched on how to deal with fake news.

Her comments follow a growing debate on fake news in Europe, and comes amid a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday on expanding a counter-propaganda cell within the EU's foreign affairs branch, the European External Action Service (EEAS).

Most internet traffic is spread through Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. Fake news is easily disseminated with little effort via these US-based platforms.

Gabriel said people can purchase 20,000 comments for €5,000 and another €2,600 will buy up to 300,000 social media followers.

"This type of manipulation is possible because there is an offer to provide these services," she said.

But regulators are facing a tricky debate on balancing fake news, which may not be illegal, and fundamental rights like the freedom of expression.

The issue has created its own industry.

Over 100 pro-Donald Trump websites are registered in a small town in Macedonia where young adults, some only teenagers, are earning huge sums of money to spread false news. Pro-Russian websites have also made wide inroads into the Czech Republic.

Earlier last month, Twitter slapped an ad ban on Russian pro-government media outlets like Russia Today and Sputnik. According to US intelligence, both had attempted to interfere with the US presidential elections.

The same two media outlets are also behind a series of Spanish language articles, some of which were designed to inflame tensions in the lead up to Catalan independence referendum on 20 October. There are similar allegations of interference in the UK's 2016 Brexit referendum.

Hackers had also dumped a huge cache of campaign emails, two days before the French presidential election, in an bid to scare voters away from Emmanuel Macron.

The email dump stoked further fears of Russian meddling, given that the far-right Marine Le Pen presidential contender, was favoured by Moscow.

Lisa-Maria Neudert, an Oxford University researcher, says that for every piece of professional content, one piece of fake news junk content was being shared in the United States.

"Information to misinformation had a ratio of one to one, which I think was a dramatic finding," she said.

Her findings were part of a study that looked at 28 million feeds shared in political debates and elections in the US, UK, France, and Germany.

"In France we have had a ratio of seven-to-one and in the UK and also in Germany we had a ratio of four-to-one, so roughly 20 percent of fake news content that was being shared," she said.

Macron vows law against fake news

French president Emmanuel Macron has promised legislation to block the spread of fake news, as part of a broader effort to protect liberal democracies from Russian propaganda.

Opinion

The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations