With coronavirus spreading across Europe and the world, the amount of disinformation, conspiracy theories and external interference has also been increasing at a steady pace, and there is a number of actors both within and outside the EU who seek to promote false narratives. This rapid increase in the number of disinformation campaigns – especially coming from China and Russia – is not only a big threat to democracies and fundamental rights but also harms public trust in institutions and governments.
In this context, on 10 June, the European Commission released a communication ‘Tackling COVID-19 disinformation – getting the facts right’ which highlights the steps taken to tackle online disinformation during the coronavirus pandemic and further steps needed to face future challenges.
The communication shows that close collaboration with online platforms and the strengthening of the health sector to provide accurate information on the virus were among the actions adopted by the European Commission during the pandemic.
“The pandemic showed that disinformation does not only harm the health of our citizens but also the health of democracies”, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová said during the presentation of the communication.
Jourová praised the efforts by online platforms to fight disinformation and fake news but stressed that disinformation will not disappear anywhere, and therefore more efforts from all relevant players are still needed.
To this end, one of the EU’s next steps is to urge online platforms to provide detailed reports each month on the actions they take to prevent disinformation. Other steps include supporting free and independent media, fact checking and research activities, as well as a call for EU member states to guarantee independent journalisms. Moreover, raising citizen awareness of disinformation will be invested in.
“We want to create a more resilient and democratic information space based on fundamental rights and respect of freedom of expression but also with clear expectations from the digital players”, Jourová concluded her intervention.
The communication and the actions proposed will set the base for the future EU work on disinformation and will be included in the European Democracy Action Plan and the Digital Services Act that will be published by the end of the year.
#Disinformation waves have hit Europe during #Coronavirus. They harm not only the health of our democracies, but also of our citizens. To fight them, we need to mobilise all relevant players from fact-checkers, researchers to online platforms and authorities.#EUvsDisinfo pic.twitter.com/aTWV2SYXSz— Věra Jourová (@VeraJourova) June 10, 2020