A growing threat to European democracies
Disinformation is a concern for our citizens.
- 83% of people think disinformation threatens democracy
- 63% of younger Europeans come across fake news more than once a week
- 51% of Europeans think they have been exposed to disinformation online
Disinformation harms our society by
During the COVID-19 crisis, misleading healthcare information, dangerous hoaxes with false claims, conspiracy theories and consumer fraud also endangered public health.
The European Union and its Member States are reinforcing their actions to counter efforts by actors who try to exploit the crisis and put citizens’ lives at risk, as well as those who spread propaganda or hatred.
|detecting, analysing and exposing disinformation|
|improving societal resilience and mobilising the private sector|
Strengthening the Code of Practice on Disinformation
A Code of Practice was established in 2018 for online platforms, advertisers and other key players. It committed them to curbing disinformation and improving their online policies.
It has proven to be an innovative tool for ensuring greater transparency and accountability of online platforms as well as providing a structured framework for monitoring and improving the platforms’ policies on disinformation.
Exchanges with signatories have become more regular and efficient. During the coronavirus crisis, platforms reported monthly to the Commission with specific indicators that provide an overview of their actions to promote authoritative content, improve users’ awareness and identify flows of advertising linked to coronavirus disinformation.
As announced in the European Democracy Action Plan, the Commission proposes to go further by reinforcing the Code in several areas to make it strong, stable and flexible.
|Current Code of Practice||Guidance on how to strengthen the Code of Practice|
Commitments of signatories to the Code could be reinforced by
- demonetising disinformation and increasing scrutiny of advertising placements
- increasing the transparency of political advertising and issues based advertising
- ensuring a comprehensive coverage of manipulative behaviour and tailored commitment to reduce their impact
- broadening and strengthening tools that empower users, e.g. to detect and flag false or misleading content
- increasing the coverage of fact-checking across EU countries and languages
- providing researchers with increased access to data
Chronology of EU's actions against disinformation
From 2015 onwards, the EU and Member States reinforced their approach against disinformation.
- March 2015
Launch of the East StratCom Taskforce in the European External Action Service
- April 2016
Joint Framework on countering hybrid threats
A comprehensive approach to improve the common response to the challenges posed by hybrid threats to Member States, citizens and the collective security of Europe.
- March 2018
Report of the independent High-Level Expert Group on fake news and online disinformation recommending to tackle pressing problems and longer-term responses to increase societal resilience to disinformation
- April 2018
Communication on tackling online disinformation inter alia announcing the code of Practice on Disinformation
- September 2018
- October 2018
Code of practice on disinformation
An innovative self-regulatory tool to ensure greater transparency and accountability of online platforms, and a framework to monitor and improve online platforms’ policies on disinformation.
- December 2018
Action Plan against disinformation
Sets the framework of the EU’s actions by improving detection and analysis capabilities, raising awareness, strengthening societal resilience, increasing coordinated responses, and mobilising online platforms and the advertising sector.
- March 2019
Launch of the Rapid Alert System against disinformation
- June 2020
- Communication: Tackling COVID-19 disinformation and launch of the COVID-19 disinformation monitoring programme
A transparency measure to ensure accountability towards the public of the efforts made by the Code’s signatories to limit online disinformation related to COVID-19.
- Launch of the European Digital Media Observatory
Creates and supports a multidisciplinary community, including fact-checkers, academic researchers and other relevant stakeholders contributing to addressing disinformation.
- December 2020
- Proposal for a Digital Services Act
Defines clearer responsibilities and accountability for online platforms tailored to their respective role, size and impact in the online ecosystem.
- European Democracy Action Plan
Includes actions to improve the EU’s existing toolbox for countering foreign interference, such as imposing fines and the guidance to strengthen the Code of Practice on Disinformation.
- May 2021
- Guidance for Strengthening the Code of Practice on Disinformation
Commission’s views on how platforms should address gaps and shortcomings in the Code and create a more transparent, safe and trustworthy online environment.
- Launch of the European Digital Media Observatory national hubs
To increase the capacity of detecting, analysing and exposing disinformation campaigns.
- Autumn 2021
First draft of the Strengthened Code of Practice by signatories
- By end of 2021
- Strengthened Code of Practice
- Legislative proposal on the transparency of political advertising