Friday

22nd Jan 2021

EU Commission plans sanctions on disinformation

  • The commission will also introduce legislation next year on the transparency of online political advertising, with commissioner Vera Jourova adding she wants to limit the micro-targeting criteria for political advertisements (Photo: European Commission)

EU Commission vice-president Vera Jourova has confirmed the EU executive is planning a sanctions regime against foreign interference and disinformation efforts, naming China and Russia among the culprits.

It is part of a series of planned measures Jourova unveiled on Thursday (3 December) in order to better protect free elections in a digital age, strengthen independent media, and counter disinformation.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The EU plans a "toolbox for countering foreign influence operations and interference, including new instruments that allow for the imposing of costs on perpetrators".

"We must not stay passive. Over years we have seen [an] increasing trend of coordinated, well-focused and targeted activities of malign actors from abroad," Jourova told reporters, naming China and Russia.

"We see the trend, the attacks on the European society bring fruits, and able to influence the quality of democracy, and undermine the trust of people in democratic institutions," she warned.

"Those who flood the information space with disinformation up to now go unpunished," she said adding that she is calling on member states to work together to close this gap and to "make it difficult to expensive, rather than easy and cheap as it is now".

Jourova refrained from going into details of a possible sanctions regime but said she was inspired by the EU cyber diplomacy toolbox, which was used for the first time in July against six individuals and three entities with travel bans and asset freeze.

"Possible ways of doing so range from publicly identifying commonly used techniques (so as to render them operationally unusable) to imposing sanctions following repeated offences," the democracy action plan, presented on Thursday, said.

The plan also states that as part of the upcoming Digital Services Act (DSA), to be unveiled later this month, the commission will bolster the bloc's code of practice against disinformation.

The code of practice is a self-regulatory framework signed by platforms, such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter, pledging to take measures to control disinformation online.

Self-regulation to co-regulation

"We will move from self-regulation to co-regulation," Jourova said.

"We need a new disinformation pact with platforms, advertisers, websites and civil society to improve accountability of algorithms, to stop allowing platforms and website making money on disinformation, to design better ways to deal with manipulations through bots and fake accounts," she added.

The commission will also introduce legislation next year on the transparency of online political advertising, with Jourova adding she wants to limit the micro-targeting criteria for political advertisements.

The executive wants to provide tools for journalists against "abusive litigation", the so-called Slapps.

The commission also wants to increase the transparency of media ownership, and of state advertisement.

"Public money should not be used for to favour only those who sympathies with those in power," Jourova said.

The commission will propose in 2021 a recommendation on the safety of journalists, with the Czech commissioner noting that since this year alone, 140 journalist were attacked during protests in 11 EU member states.

Opinion

EU 'all bark and no bite' on disinformation

The list of suspects orchestrating foreign influence campaigns is growing. The likes of China, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia are also tapping into Russia's disinfo playbook.

EU leaders to discuss vaccine certificates

While some member states hope vaccine certificates could revive tourism, EU officials point out that it is not clear if vaccinated people can still carry the virus and infect others.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary buys Russia's Sputnik V vaccine
  2. Netherlands imposes curfew to halt new corona variant
  3. Green NGO fails to stop Europe's biggest gas burner
  4. Swedish minister reminds Europe of Russia's war
  5. Spain: Jesuit order apologises for decades of sexual abuse
  6. NGOs urge Borrell to address Egypt rights 'crisis'
  7. EU conflict-area education aid favours boys
  8. EU told to avoid hydrogen in building renovations

EU pushes back against rising homophobia

The EU Commission plans a proposal to ensure recognition children-parent relations in cross border situations, and legislation to support the mutual recognition of parenthood between member states.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. EU leaders keep open borders, despite new corona variant risk
  2. EU and Cuba appeal for Biden to open up
  3. Portugal's EU presidency marks return of corporate sponsors
  4. MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute
  5. EU warns UK to be 'very careful' in diplomatic status row
  6. A digital euro - could it happen?
  7. US returns to climate deal and WHO, as EU 'rejoices'
  8. Big tech: From Trump's best friend to censorship machine?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us