Disinformation - or fake news - consists of verifiably false or misleading information that is created, presented and disseminated for economic gain or to intentionally deceive the public, and may cause public harm.
The phenomenon is having 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.
A comprehensive policy response must reflect the specific roles of different actors (social platforms, news media and users), and define their responsibilities according to a number of guiding principles. These include the freedom of expression, media pluralism, and the rights 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 European Union has outlined an action plan to step up efforts to counter disinformation in Europe and beyond focusing on four key areas. This plan serves to build EU's capabilities and strengthen cooperation between member states by improving detection, having a coordinated response to threats, collaboration with online platforms and industry as well as raising awareness and empowering citizens. The factsheet on the action plan to counter disinformation provides a clear overview.
A first Report assessing the progress made in the implementation of the actions set out in the April Communication on online disinformation was also adopted.
The Action Plan complements the Communication "Tackling online disinformation: a European approach", that puts forward self-regulatory tools to tackle the spread and impact of online disinformation in Europe, and ensure the protection of European values and democratic systems.
Four principles guide the action:
- Improve transparency regarding the way information is produced or sponsored;
- Diversity of information;
- Credibility of information;
- Inclusive solutions with broad stakeholder involvement.
The Communication on online disinformation has been developed taking into account the extensive consultations with citizens and stakeholders:
- a public consultation to gather the views of a wide range of stakeholders on fake news. The synopsis report is now available. The consultation process was complemented with a Eurobarometer public opinion survey to measure and analyse the perceptions and concerns of the European citizens around fake news.
- a multi-stakeholder conference and a colloquium 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.
- a High Level Group (HLG), to advise on policy initiatives to counter fake news and the spread of disinformation online. The Group submitted its final report on the 12 March 2018. You can check the list of members.
- A self-regulatory Code of Practice to address the spread of online disinformation and fake news is now in place as a step forward to ensure transparency and fairness in online campaigns.
- Individual roadmaps by online platforms and the advertising industry to implement the Code of Practice.
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.
- Communication "Tackling online disinformation: a European approach"
- Progress Report - assessing the progress made in the implementation of the actions set out in the April Communication on online disinformation
- Action plan against disinformation
- Factsheet on tackling online disinformation
- Factsheet - overview of the action plan to counter disinformation
- Synopsis report on public consultation on fake news and online disinformation
- Study on fake news and disinformation from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.
- Press release: "A Europe that Protects: The EU steps up action against disinformation" (5 December 2018)
- Questions and Answers – The EU steps up action against disinformation (5 December 2018)