Opinion Factsheet  

Tackling online disinformation: a European Approach

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Opinion Number: CDR 3908/2018
Rapporteur: GEBLEWICZ Olgierd
Commission: CIVEX
Status: Adopted
Date: 06/02/2019
 
Highlighting that the threat posed to democracy by fake news and disinformation is a common threat to all levels of government: Cities and regions are often the first levels of government to feel these impacts and they are in an excellent position to implement media literacy campaigns to prevent the dissemination of fake news and disinformation. Therefore, the role of cities and regions must be considered in implementation of any strategies to counter fake news and disinformation.
Outlining the role of local and regional authorities
Addressing the threat of fake news and disinformation within the EU and its Neighbourhood
CIVEX external conference on "Hate speech, fake news, propaganda – modern enemies of democracy" – 28/05/2018, Szczecin, Poland

The event was organised at the invitation of Olgierd Geblewicz (PL/EPP), President of Westpomerania Region. The thirty CIVEX members and the local stakeholders had the chance to discuss how local and regional levels of governance are affected by, and can react to, the growing phenome challenging our democratic systems: Populist Propaganda and Fake News Proliferation.
The conference was opened by Adam Bodnar, the Polish Ombudsman, who described the local context, followed by Anni Hellman, Deputy Head of Unit for Media Convergence and Social Media, Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology, European Commission, who pointed out the key points of the Communication on "Tackling online disinformation: the European approach". Furthermore, Indrė Vareikytė, EESC rapporteur delivered a presentation on How media is used to influence social and political processes in the EU and Eastern neighbouring countries.

CIVEX study visit on "How to combat hate speech and disinformation – case studies" 6 September 2019, Świnoujście, Westpomerania, Poland at the invitation of Olgierd Geblewicz, President of Westpomerania Region
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

- emphasises the fact that, in the near future, the vast majority of information will be disseminated through online channels and social media might be the main medium used to convey such information to people, particularly in western countries: it is already the case that more than half of all Europeans use social networks every day or two or three times a week;

- points out that the effectiveness of these disinformation campaigns is vastly increased through access to detailed personal information on social media users, obtained through or bought from social media, that can be used to personalise the disinformation shown, thus maximizing its effect;

- warns that social media's current operating mechanisms, more than those used by any other information channel, are conducive to the spreading of falsehoods: various academic studies have shown that false information appearing on Twitter, for example, is as much as 70% more likely to be shared by the user ("retweeted") than accurate information;

- points out that the risk of disinformation affects democratic societies and institutions at all levels; the targeted dissemination of online fake news can have just as damaging an effect on the local community (and political processes including European, national and local elections) as on countries as a whole; countering disinformation must therefore be a priority ahead of the European elections both for European institutions and social media networks to ensure free and fair elections;

- notes that the main players on the social media market – with the support of the European institutions – are currently focusing their efforts on combating disinformation by means of the "self-regulation" of social media platforms and their voluntary cooperation with external bodies (e.g. fact-checking organisations) and state institutions; social media platforms must invest greater efforts in countering fake news, including flagging, fact-checking, and actions to close fake accounts, dedicating sufficient resources to monitoring information flows in different languages in all EU Member States. In addition, social media platforms should promote the concept of "verifying" user accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube, so as to guarantee that they are trustworthy and ethical sources;
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