24th Jan 2021

EU cancels April Fool's 'fake news'

  • 'Can the same man say what is both true and false?', a spokesperson said (Photo: European Commission)

The EU has urged media not to publish April Fool's 'fake news' this year to help combat Russian propaganda.

"Protecting our democratic processes and institutions from Russian disinformation has become a major challenge in the modern era," the European Commission said on Tuesday (31 March).

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"To help tackle this, the commission recommends the suspension, for the time being, of the common tradition of April Fool's 'fake news' in European media," it said.

The move came after the EU recently accused Russia of "polluting" Europe's information ecosystem with deceptions which had "real-world consequences".

Russian news agencies have falsely claimed the US was using ants as biological weapons, for instance, that Western countries practiced gay cannibalism, and that Swedish former foreign minister Margot Wallström advocated mass-castration of white men.

At the same time, many EU media published hoax articles on 1 April each year in a European custom which goes back to medieval festivities, but which now risked making matters worse.

EUobserver's fake news of 1 April 2015, for example, saying EU institutions had confiscated two Russian warships, was reported as real news by Russia's top media at the time.

That kind of thing was not funny any more, Tuesday's EU statement indicated.

But the EU commission added, in a key proviso, that it had no legal mandate on cultural policy, leaving European newspapers "free" to dupe their readers.

"While bearing responsibility to guarantee factual news, free and independent media are the basis of a pluralistic and open society," the commission said.

"The suspension, with full respect for EU fundamental rights, of targeted April Fool's practices, is to be adopted on a voluntary basis," it noted.

And the hoax ban should be treated "with respect for Europe's shared April Fool's spirit," it said.

True and false

Asked by EUobserver if that was a loophole which made the EU ban 'no more than a joke', a commission spokesperson said: "It's like asking whether the same man can say what is at the same time both true and false".

For its part, Russia's EU embassy accused the commission of "cheapjack confabisculations [sic]".

But top Russian officials have, in the past, also boasted of how Kremiln fake news was "playing with Western minds" to create "paranormal preferences".

"It's like looking in a mirror with another mirror behind you," the EU spokesperson said.

This article is an April Fool's joke. Nothing in it is true.


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