The European Union is stepping up its efforts to fight disinformation to protect its democratic systems and public debates as the bloc is preparing for the 2019 European election as well as a number of national elections. The EU presented an action plan that includes improved detection, coordinated response and awareness building among citizens. Under the plan, Brussels will reinforce its data analysis tools and increase strategic communication budget to raise awareness about its adverse impact. The budget will go up from the current €1.9 million in 2018 to €5 million in 2019.
Regarding online platforms and industry, the signatories are committed to improving the transparency of political advertising, stepping up efforts to close active fake accounts and cooperating with researchers to detect disinformation campaigns and make fact-checked content more visible and widespread. The EU also seeks to raise awareness, empower citizens and promote media literacy through dedicated programs. Support will be provided to national teams of independent fact-checkers and researchers to detect and expose disinformation across social platforms.
Vice-President and chief of EU diplomacy, Federica Mogherini commented that a healthy democracy relied on open, free and fair public debate. “It’s our duty to protect this space and not allow anybody to spread disinformation that fuels hatred, division, and mistrust in democracy.” Andrus Ansip, Vice-President responsible for the Digital Single Market, added that the EU needed to unite to protect democracy against disinformation to ward off the efforts to interfere in elections and referenda, “with evidence pointing to Russia as a primary source of these campaigns”.