The European Commission has presented an action plan to step up efforts to counter disinformation among the electorate in the run up to the European Parliament elections in May 2019.
Among the measures proposed in the plan, which was announced on Tuesday, include a new rapid alert system to facilitate the sharing of data and assessments of disinformation campaigns between EU institutions and Member States. The aim of the system is to allow disinformation threats to be countered in real time.
Internet giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google will be expected to provide regular reports on their efforts to combat disinformation and take down bots that spread automated messages on social media networks.
The European External Action Service, the diplomatic service of the Union, will see its communication budget more than doubled, from 1.9 million euros to 5 million.
“We need to be united and join our forces to protect our democracies against disinformation,” said Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice-President responsible for the Digital Single Market. “We have seen attempts to interfere in elections and referenda, with evidence pointing to Russia as a primary source of these campaigns,” he added
The European Commission’s plan is another step in a strategy that began to take shape in 2015, when Brussels launched the East Stratcom Task Force, a unit of the EU’s External Action Service (EU) specifically dedicated to combating “pro-Kremlin disinformation”.
These measures will be put in place in close cooperation with the Member States and the European Parliament. The challenge for the European Union is to ensure ” an open, free and fair debate”, said the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini on Tuesday. “It is our duty to protect this space of expression and not to allow anyone to sow disinformation, which fuels hatred, division and mistrust of democracy”, She concluded.