“Tackling disinformation, fake news, bots and election meddling is a priority for the EU with a new range of measures including a code of conduct for online platforms, an independent network of European fact-checkers and support for quality journalism announced today. The proposals come before an expected debate between MEPs and the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, who is understood to be due to appear before the European Parliament in May.” Brian Hayes MEP said on Thursday of this week.
“More people are getting their news online, from social network sites that can be manipulated by algorithms or much worse – those who seek to distort the truth in order to disrupt or influence a democratic society. In addition, recent scandals such as Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of personal data from Facebook users has again raised concerns over the protection of privacy online. These are all issues that need to be addressed comprehensively.
“The latest Eurobarometer survey of European citizens found that 83% of respondents said that fake news represents a danger to democracy. The biggest concerns related to intentional disinformation aimed at influencing elections and immigration policies. 33% of Irish people surveyed said they came across fake news stories every day.” the Dublin MEP said.
The Eurobarometer survey also revealed that most Europeans agree that traditional media is the most trusted source of news (radio 70%, TV 66%, print 63%). While, online sources of news and video hosting websites are the least trusted source of news, with trust rates of 26% and 27%.
The Commission’s proposals include an EU-wide Code of Practice on Disinformation for online platforms to be published by July to provide greater clarity about the functioning of algorithms and enabling third-party verification. Platforms would be expected to identify and close fake accounts and to tackle the issue of automatic bots faster and enable fact-checkers, researchers and public authorities to continuously monitor online disinformation.
It’s proposed that an independent European network of fact-checkers would be established to exchange best practices, and work to achieve the broadest possible coverage of factual corrections across the EU. They will be selected from the EU members of the International Fact Checking Network which follows a strict International Fact Checking Network Code of Principles. A higher level of media literacy will be encouraged and Member States are also being called on to scale up their support of quality journalism to ensure a pluralistic, diverse and sustainable media environment.
“Disinformation poses a threat to society and must be tackled. I welcome the EU initiative to work towards a more coordinated response with a series of proposals forward today. The General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR comes into force in the EU on May 25th and will give European citizens more control over the treatment of their personal data online.” Mr Hayes added.