Ahead of the impending implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation on May 25, the European Commission plans to take steps to counter disinformation and fake news in an effort to fight for greater transparency, traceability, and accountability, Commissioner Julian King said on April 26.
“When it comes to disinformation we are in a war, a new kind of war with no rules of engagement,” said King.
According to a poll by the Commission, 85% of Europeans think that fake news is major a problem in their country and 68% of EU residents say they come across fake news at least once a week. Of those polled, nearly 60% said they are unable to comprehend that their use of social media heavily influences what they see online.
To help raise media literacy among the EU Member States and to help fight against the spread of disinformation, the Commission will create a Code of Practice on Disinformation. By July, European online platforms will develop and follow a common Code of Practice that will make it easier for users to identify fake accounts.
“I want the platforms to make it very clear that users are dealing with a bot and not a real human being,” said Commissioner Mariya Gabriel. “There’s no time to lose,” said Gabriel. “Looking ahead to 2019, we need to be particularly vigilant in our fight against disinformation and we need to target interference with elections.”
The new code of conduct will increase users’ awareness about the origin of online advertisements, particularly those with a political message. The Commission will also establish an independent European network of fact-checkers, who will be selected from the International Fact Checking Network and fight to verify political claims and help shut down false social media accounts.
A secure European online platform covering disinformation will be created to assist the fact-checkers and grant them access to EU-wide and cross-border data from academic researchers.
The EU has repeatedly said the key to stopping the sort of fake news spread by hackers and trolls linked to the Russian security services over the last two years is to educate the public on various forms of media. If users can spot fake news, they can report and stop its dissemination.
“The media is a crucial component for guarding democracy. We support the work of journalists…it is one of our core values,” said Gabriel.