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Tackling Online Disinformation: New European Attempts

Large-scale disinformation campaigns are a major challenge for Europe and its values and require a coordinated response from EU countries, institutions, social networks, news media and, last but not least, from every online user.

Photo: the European Commission has issued a roadmap aimed at providing guidance on strengthening the existing Code of Conduct on Disinformation / Credits © Shutterstock

Every day, millions of new videos, articles and posts appear on the internet worldwide. But how can you know if what you see and read is really true? Many people are increasingly unsettled: The thought of whether, for example, an article that has just been forwarded to you or popped up in your Facebook timeline is actually true is something almost everyone might have gone through by now.

The current coronavirus pandemic has been accompanied by a massive wave of false or misleading information. Attempts by both foreign and domestic actors to actively influence and mislead citizens and debates in the European Union are part of this. Conspiracy theories are also becoming more widespread. The manipulated information gives the impression that it is real, provable news. In this way, targeted lies and propaganda are spread, which through the easy forwarding possibilities naturally reach a large number of people very quickly.

A number of initiatives have already been developed by the European Commission to tackle the problem of disinformation some years ago. For instance, the Code of Practice on Disinformation, which sets out a series of global self-regulatory standards for the industry, ranging from greater transparency in political advertising to shutting down fake accounts and disenfranchising disinformation providers. However, the experiences of the last year as well as the results of the evaluation of the Code made it more than clear that it was insufficient and unsuitable going forward.

Against the backdrop of increasing disinformation activities related to the COVID 19 outbreak, intensive work was therefore done to further raise awareness of the dangers of disinformation and to promote the use of reliable sources. There has been a push for online platforms to help combat false news by removing illegal or inaccurate content. Efforts to combat disinformation related to COVID-19 vaccines have also been stepped up recently.

Facebook, Google, Twitter, Mozilla, Microsoft and TikTok, for instance, regularly need to report on their actions and measures to curb disinformation. Efforts towards improvement include the Google search function, which displays reliable vaccine information and statistics for appropriate searches and is now active in all 27 EU countries, and the removal of 30,000 videos on YouTube that contained claims that contradicted the consensus of health authorities.

In order to further advance the fight against disinformation, the Commission has issued a roadmap aimed at providing guidance on strengthening the existing Code of Conduct on Disinformation. Its aim is to define how its signatories should further strengthen the code and monitor its implementation and impact in the future. Until 29 April, it is now open for comments from interested stakeholders. Should you have any comments, ideas or suggestions for improvement to make this endeavor more efficient and put an end to infodemic, you should get involved.

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