Fighting Against Disinformation About European Elections
While the EU is bracing for the European Elections, disinformation is raging on social media. Who is in charge of tackling this phenomenon, and how do they operate?
The European Union has launched a coordinated fight against fake news ahead of this month’s European Parliament elections.
Brussels hopes to shield the 427 million people eligible to vote for the 751-seat EU chamber in late May.
The bloc aims to fund fact-checking organizations, build up an in-house unit to counter disinformation from Russia and enlist social media giants.
Lutz Guellner, one of the EU’s top officials in charge of the anti-disinformation campaign, said disinformation could come from “domestic” or “outside” actors, citing “pro-Kremlin disinformation sources.”
“I think everybody has heard already about the so-called Internet Research Agency [IRA] and other actors that are there really in a coordinated manner, trying to send out different pieces of information that attempt to manipulate the public space or a public debate on specific issues and on general issues. For example, by feeding very extremist views or by feeding and supporting a very specific, what we call a specific narrative, for example about the decadence of the West, you know, that this is all about to crumble and this is the end of the European Union,” Head of the Unit for Information, Communication and Civil Society in the European Commission, Lutz Guellner said.
Following a fire at Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral in April, Russian media outlets in Europe blamed Islamist militants and Ukraine’s pro-Western government. This is used as an example of disinformation by the EUvsDisinfo website, which was put in place by the EU’s foreign service.
“What we are doing there is not to counter propaganda, it is not kind of pushing back with the same number of actors or trolls. It’s about our capability to expose what is going on there. We do this in a way which uses a lot of irony, because a lot of these things are actually, if you look at them, quite ridiculous in terms of what stories are out there, but there is a serious element behind it, and that is to see that there is a coordinated and intentional activity that tries to undermine the way information is actually being circulated,” Guellner added.
Last week, Facebook took down numerous Italian accounts. The social media giant opened a fake news war room in late April, but security experts say it may be too late to uproot the seeds of doubt planted by malign campaigns to undermine one of the world’s biggest elections.
The European elections will be held across the EU’s 28 member countries from May 23 to May 26.