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In 2019, Russia was the country of origin of 998 cases of disinformation in Europe, nearly doubling the number of cases of the previous year.
EDC News: Online Disinformation
Online disinformation is used to cause public harm or for financial profit through the creation and circulation of inaccurate or wrong content targeted at EU Member States. According to the EC’s Communication on disinformation (COM(2018) 236), the spread of such content can occur through the sharing of online posts by users or by coordinated attempts to harm a society or democratic process. This is further amplified by the profit-focused business model of social media platforms, which favours more sensational content, which are not necessarily correct, but are more attractive to its users.
The online spreading of misleading or wrong content threatens the EU’s fundamental freedom of expression and the right to receive and distribute information. Disinformation has the ability to distort facts and misshape opinions, which has the capacity to weaken voters’ decision-making. Public opinion shows that over 80% of Europeans surveyed believe that online disinformation circulates quickly due to its emotional appeal and that it can have serious implications on societal debates.
The principals of any solution for disinformation outlined in the EC’s Communication, including content source transparency, multiplicity and reliability of information and the inclusiveness of all parties involved in the issue. The Code of Practice on Disinformation, signed by social networks and advertisers, laid a set of standards, which signatories would have to self-regulate, based on the abovementioned Communication. These standards are to ensure advertisers are more responsible and transparent, fake accounts are dealt with effectively, improve access to different news sources for users and increase monitoring of online disinformation. Furthermore, the EU released an Action Plan seeks to strengthen Member States’ cooperation and the EU’s capabilities by enhancing the detection and response to disinformation, strengthening the cooperation with social networks and advertisers, and increase the public’s awareness of online disinformation.