On June 23, 2016 the European Union (EU) suffered the biggest tear since its foundation. The United Kingdom left the community club and the Brexit it became a reality. Six hours after learning of the amputation, the national conservative Nigel Farage recognized that the great promises of the campaign – in which Brussels chose not to intervene – were lies. “Not acting was a huge mistake,” he confesses now Jesus Carmona, media director of the European Parliament. “However, that woke us up.”
Six years after the trauma, the EU is facing a major challenge after the military invasion deployed by Russia on Ukraine, a challenge in which information plays a key role. “The pandemic has radically changed our position and the war it has accelerated it”, explains Carmona. “The disinformation It is not so much a war between countries as something that can affect democracy from within and produce a disinterest of the citizen for democracy that affects our way of functioning”.
On the global geopolitical chessboard, the EU is an actor with its own interests. That is why the European Parliament seeks to counteract the narratives contrary to these by releasing positive information about its institutions and supporting journalists and ‘fact-checkers’ to verify and refute the hoaxes launched by their rivals.
In an environment in which reality is increasingly questioned, the efforts of Brussels they focus on promoting their values and reversing the interest of foreign powers in consolidating them as the predominant system. “China Y Russia They sell that they are countries where life is not so bad, but we do not contemplate that the rule of law is not respected or that torture is justified, ”says Carmona.
disruption from within
However, this battle for the story is also being waged within European borders, where there is “activity that is eroding the EU”. Among the Twenty-seven there are countries like Hungary, Poland either Slovakia whose governments have charged against the interests of their partners and have sought to delegitimize community institutions, something also common among the extreme right European, dangerously close to the Kremlin.
To strengthen its communication campaign, Brussels has the support of Media Intelligence Unit, a platform that monitors up to 6,000 media outlets to analyze how they talk about the EU. The reports they make are for internal consumption and serve to advise the European Comission (CE), detect the proliferation of contrary narratives and act. “This news tracking allows us to make corrections and talk positively about the EU,” he explains. Paula Fernandez Hervashead of the unit. “If we are not giving way to those who only mention the negative.”
act with laws
Laws are a basic pillar of the EU to combat disinformation. Already in 2016, the EC and the main technology companies agreed on a code of conduct to combat hate speech and incitement to violence in Internet. “Platforms still do not respect 100% what we believe they should eliminate, but we have achieved a certain balance between regulation and freedom of the press,” says Carmona.
In the coming months the European Parliament will approve the Digital Services Law (DSA), a mammoth legislative project in which these platforms will be encouraged to stop hoaxes and it will be the EC that determines if they have done enough.
This point is controversial, since threats of a racial, ethnic, sexual or religious nature may be illegal, but disinformation is not. The pressure from Brussels for social networks to remove this type of content under threat of sanctions worries experts and organizations because of the digital rights like Xnet, which has denounced that this can lead to an “excessive withdrawal of legitimate content”, that is, to censorship. The lack of harmonization of laws in the EU is also a problem, as not all member states agree on what is or is not illegal.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter either Youtube They have been accused of using algorithms that viralize the most polarizing content, since emotional content engages and retains the user more. That is why the DSA will force to evaluate the impact of the algorithms and act accordingly. “We are studying that this evaluation be carried out several times a year in extraordinary circumstances such as the pandemic or war,” says Danish MEP Christel Schaldemose, rapporteur for the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. The growing control in these spaces has led disinformation channels to move to other platforms that are more difficult to control, such as Telegram either Twitter.
Although it does not have much support, parties like the PP advocate ending anonymity on the Internet and identifying all users with their ID to curb disinformation. Groups such as the Platform for Freedom of Information (PLI) have been rejecting the proposal for years, since it violates “all international standards” and the UN asks to protect that anonymity.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.