The EU steps up action against disinformation

The UE Action Plan aims to coordinate governments, civil society, private sector and citizens in fight against fake news.

February 15, 2019

Fake news is a problem for democracy for more than eight in ten respondents of the lastest Eurobarometer on this topic published on March 2018. The debate on disinformation at the European level has been on the agenda for a while now. However, a clear, concrete action plan to prevent this problem from influencing democracies across Europe was not a reality up until last December 2018.

The UE Action Plan against Disinformation is based on several actions with both a short -having in mind the upcoming European elections in May- and long term approach. “Strong commitment and swift actions are necessary to preserve the democratic process and the trust of citizens in public institutions at both national an Union level”, concluded the document.

The four main pillars of the action plan aim to coordinate governments, civil society, private sector and citizens in fight against fake news. The objetive of the first part of the plan is to improve the detection, analysis and exposure of disinformation in EU institutions. Stategic Communication Task Forces, including more staff and data analysis tools, would be deployed to acomplish this aim. “There is a need to invest in analytical tools such as dedicated sofware to mine, organise and aggregate vast amounts of digital data”, explaines the plan. Fandango, in this regard, would be a valuable incorporation.

The plan also involves the creation of a Rapid Alert System, a reactive tool for providing disinformation alerts across EU network. This tool, which is expected to be operative by March 2019, is the second step in fighting fake news.

The private sector and citizens roles are defined in the third and fourth part of the Action Plan, respectivelly. The signature of a Code of Practice -published in September 2018- by online platforms, social networks, advertisers and the advertising industry among others, is now to be monitored by the European Comission. This Code includes “ensuring transparency of political advertising, stepping up efforts to close active fake accounts, labelling non-human interactions (messages spread automatically by ‘bots’) and cooperating with fact checkers and academic researchers”.

Although more than two-thirds of Europeans are at least ‘somewhat confident’ that they are able to identify fake news, only 15% say they are ‘very confident’ according to the Eurobarometer. Dedicated programmes to media literacy are also covered by this roadmap; targeted campaigns for the public and trainings for media and public opinion will be organised. Member states are also encouraged to foster the creation multi-disciplinary teams of independent fact-checkers and researchers.

Nevertheless, journalist are the first actors who should stop the spread of fake news for 45% of the respondents on the Eurobarometer, even ahead of public institutions as the EU. Fandango would perfectly fit in this plan by giving journalist a tool to spread information that has been prevously fact-checked and, consequently, helping democracy to preserve its core values.