European regions call for action to tackle disinformation  

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) is urging the European Commission and its Member States to step up their efforts to combat disinformation, particularly in the context of the upcoming European elections. For their part, local and regional authorities can effectively commit to counteract current online disinformation through civic education, support for non-governmental organisations and civil society, and support for local media.

The rapporteur for the opinion on tackling online disinformation , the Marshal of the West Pomerania Region Olgierd Geblewicz (PL/EPP), stresses that, “Disinformation has an impact on society and democratic institutions at all levels, including the local and regional level.

It influences political and social processes at local level and, consequently, the organisation and quality of life of local communities. Disinformation not only results in political decisions that are based on false assumptions, but can also incite hatred and aggression, and lead to threats to human life and health.”

Available research shows that, in 2018 alone, organised manipulation and disinformation campaigns on social media took place in 48 countries, while various political groups around the world have spent over half a billion dollars to carry out psychological operations or to manipulate public opinion on social media.

Local and regional authorities stress, meanwhile, that the fight against online disinformation must not come at the price of freedom of speech or the right to protection of personal data.

The document stresses that educating and teaching citizens about responsible and informed use of online media, particularly social media, is the best long-term way to combat disinformation. At the same time, local and regional authorities are best able to launch educational programmes that teach how to make responsible use of online information sources and how to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources.

Representatives of local and regional authorities call on the European Parliament to propose that the European Social Fund for 2021-2027 include a priority on creating an informed society, resilient against propaganda and with the necessary competences to be able to verify information that is disseminated via the internet.

The CoR draws attention to the fact that a very large proportion of the disinformation spread online is local in nature, and can be effectively corrected by existing, tried and tested local and regional media, with a particularly important role for public actors too. It calls, therefore, for a pan-European debate to be launched on how local and regional authorities (local communities, as well as institutions at central or European level) can support the local press, for instance through subsidies for certain media, so as to ensure a healthy mixture of opinions while at the same time continuing to comply with the principles of the EU single market, in particular the rules on State aid.

Local administrators have supported the progress of the debate on "fake news"/disinformation that is underway at European level. The European Commission communication on "Tackling online disinformation: a European Approach" is a key point of reference in the ongoing debate on how to halt online disinformation.

Communication with citizens and future of Europe - will be among the main points for discussion during the 8th European Summit of Regions and Cities to be held in Bucharest, Romania, on 14-15 March – just two weeks before the U.K.'s scheduled March 29 exit date, and two months ahead of the European elections

Over 500 European, national, regional and local leaders from all EU Member States will be welcomed over in the Romanian capital to focus on the contribution of local and regional governments to the "Future of Europe". Under the title "(Re) New EUrope", the Summit will be the largest political gathering of mayors, regional presidents and other elected local and regional representatives from across the Union this year.

The event will also gather 100 young local and regional politicians to actively engage in the debate on the future of Europe. It will also see the official launch of the Committee's initiative on a new Network of Regional Hubs (#RegHub ) in the presence of the 20 participating regions.

Should you wish to participate in the event, you are kindly requested to register via the media accreditation page of the EU Romanian Presidency (deadline: 1 March) Please note that only registered journalists will be able to get media accreditation to the event.

Additional information

Contact:

Wioletta Wojewódzka

Tel. +32 2 282 22 89

wioletta.wojewodzka@cor.europa.eu