The European Union will boost efforts to counter fake news and disinformation, EU officials said last week amidst concerns about Russian influence in the Catalan crisis. The bloc has been criticized for its lack of effort to deal with what some EU capitals call orchestrated disinformation attacks managed by the Kremlin. The issue had been internally divisive with some balking at any efforts that could be seen as pro-EU propaganda. But as allegations of Russian fake news campaigns in the EU’s elections have increased, calls for a more resolute response have gone up.
Last week, EU leaders discussed where more could be done and EU chief of diplomacy Federica Mogherini sought more support from EU member states to boost budget for countering fake news. Eight member states asked Brussels to increase financial resources to fighting disinformation and push back hard on the against the EU. The EU Commission in the meantime promised to set up a new experts group on fake news by January. The EU executive also announced a public consultation looking at the breadth of the problem and possible future steps to improve access to “reliable and verified information.”
Sven Mikser, the foreign minister of Estonia, which has been a leading supporter of beefing up the EU’s counter fake news work, said there was a “growing consensus” about the imminent threat posed to Western democracies, especially by Moscow-led disinformation campaigns. “We’ve seen hybrid tactics ever since we regained our independence in the early 1990s,” he said of Estonia. “But now I think that what we have seen over the past few years—actually not only in Europe but also on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean—there has been a wake-up call and I think that the realization is there that this is something…we need to take very seriously.”