The public consultation took place between 13 November 2017 and 23 February 2018. The aim of the consultation was to help assess the effectiveness of current actions by market players and other stakeholders, the need for scaling them up and introducing new actions to address different types of fake news.

Have you ever come accross fake news

Objective of the consultation

The results of the public consultation will help assess the effectiveness of current actions by market players and other stakeholders, the need for scaling them up and introducing new actions to address different types of fake news.

The consultation will collect information on:

  1. Definition of fake information and their spread online
  2. Assessment of measures already taken by platforms, news media companies and civil society organisations to counter the spread of fake information online
  3. Scope for future actions to strengthen quality information and prevent the spread of disinformation online.

Who replied to the consultation?

Two questionnaires were available: one for the citizens and one for legal persons and journalists reflecting their professional experience of fake news and online disinformation.

The public consultation received 2986 replies: 2784 from individuals and 202 from legal organisations and journalists. The largest number of replies came from Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain. It is worth noting a high participation in Lithuania, Slovakia and Romania.

As regards replies from legal entities, the largest proportion of respondents represented private news media companies, followed by civil society organisations, other type of organisations, online platforms, research and academia and public authorities (national and local). Many respondents are active all around the world or in a large number of EU countries, including Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the UK. Sixty-nine news media organisations, fifty-one civil society organisations and sixteen online platforms replied.

Key findings

There is a common perception amongst all respondents that fake news in general are highly likely to cause harm to society, in particular in areas such as political affairs, immigration, minorities and security.

Fact-checking through independent news organisations and civil society organisations is considered the method that better contributes to counter the spread of disinformation online. However, a majority of citizens believe that social media platforms are not doing enough to help users to fact-check information before it is shared online.

With regard to possible future actions, a majority agreed that more should be done to reduce the spread of disinformation online. Regardless of the type of action proposed, all respondents unanimously agreed on the need to respect and guarantee overarching fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and to ensure that any approach used to tackle fake news should not promote any kind of direct or indirect censorship.

The consultation also showed a clear preference for a multi-stakeholder, multi-dimensional, self-regulatory approach, although some respondents complained about the lack of a level playing field between content producers and online social platforms and suggested some regulatory changes. Indeed, a large number of proposed principles and actions to tackle fake news focus on the role of online social platforms.

There was wide support to fact-checking as one of the ways to combat fake news, although the consultation also helped to understand that its efficiency is limited and that it should be accompanied by other measures. The consultation also provides some interesting information on possible tools to empower journalists and end-users, including the use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and block chain. As in the case of fact-checking, it appears that the efficiency of each tool largely depends on who uses it and for which purposes.

Strengthening efforts in increasing media literacy at all levels, from school pupils to adult audience, and among actors, from end-users to journalists, and ensuring support and access by the public to trusted journalism, given its critical role in sustaining a plural, strong public opinion, were also put forward as necessary actions.

Together with the results of the Eurobarometer, and the report of the High Level group, the results of the public consultation feed into the Commission Communication on tackling online disinformation.

More information on the Commission initiative to tackle online disinformation.

Replies by citizens

Please find the citizens replies.

Replies by legal organisations

Anonymous replies by legal organisations