Fake news consists of intentional disinformation spread via online social platforms, broadcast news media or traditional print. The phenomenon has a bigger impact than ever before as it is easier for anyone to post and share any news or information online. Social media and online platforms play an important role in speeding up the spread of such news and they enable a global reach without much effort from the author.
Overall, fake news represent an ill-defined concept encompassing different types of misrepresentation or distortion of reality in the form of news pieces (in text, audio or video formats). A broad distinction can however be drawn between false information that contain elements which are illegal under EU or national laws, and fake news that fall outside the scope of such laws.
A comprehensive policy response must reflect the specific roles of different actors (social platforms, news media and users), and define their responsibilities in the light of a number of guiding principles. These include the freedom of expression, media pluralism, and the right of citizens to diverse and reliable information.
The Commission's role
The Commission supports a multi-stakeholders process, involving platforms, news media, research and civil society organisations in order to find the right solutions consistent with fundamental principles and applicable coherently across the European Union.
The Commission is:
- launching a public consultation to gather the views of a wide range of stakeholders on fake news. Reply to the the public consultation by 23 February 2018.
- the consultation process will be complemented with a Eurobarometer public opinion survey to be launched early 2018 to measure and analyse the perceptions and concerns of the European citizens around fake news.
- setting up a High Level Group (HLG), to advise on policy initiatives to counter fake news and the spread of disinformation online. The high-level group is to hold its inaugural meeting in January 2018.
- organising a multi-stakeholder conference on Fake News to define the boundaries of the problem, assess the effectiveness of the solutions already put in place by social media platforms and to agree on key principles for further action.
As European Commission President Juncker mentioned in his mission letter to Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel, the Commission needs to look into the challenges the online platforms create for our democracies as regards the spreading of fake information and initiate a reflection on what would be needed at EU level to protect our citizens.
In April 2017, Vice-President Andrus Ansip in charge of the completion of the Digital Single Market described fake news as a serious problem. At the same time he highlighted the need to protect freedom of speech and trust people’s common sense. He also mentioned media literacy and quality journalism as vital tools to address the spread of fake news online.