European Commission Takes Steps Against Fake News and Online Disinformation

A press release from the European Commission has been released detailing plans to tackle fake news. This plan is part of the EU’s plans to protect democracy and society as a whole. “Fake news is a direct threat to the very foundations of our democratic society,” EU commissioner for digital economy, Mariya Gabriel said at a conference in Brussels. A public consultation will also be launched separately on the best way to deal with fake news.

Gabriel also announced the EU’s plans to set up an expert panel, which will include academics and civil society members. This panel would be alongside possible legislation in the future. She also said that “European citizens need to have the skills and tools at their disposal to manage the ocean of information available online; that is our challenge”.

The majority of web traffic is posted on Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. It’s very easy for fake news to be spread on these platforms. Users of these websites can purchase 20,000 comments for €5,000, and €2,600 will buy up to 300,000 social media followers. Gabriel said that “This type of manipulation is possible because there is an offer to provide these services.”

The spread of fake news is increasingly becoming a problem during government debates and election campaigns A lot of high profile countries experiencing election propaganda through social media, the most recent example being the “troll factories” in Russia which were believed to be interfering in the 2016 US general election campaign. Facebook, Twitter and Google all acknowledge that trolls purchased ads through their sites in order to influence US voters.

Regulators of the social media industry are now facing the issue or having to balance the problem of fake news, against other rights like free speech and freedom of expression. Lisa-Maria Neudert, an Oxford University researcher, says that for every piece of professional content published globally, one piece of fake news was being shared.

These results were discovered in a study that looked into over 28 million pieces of news that were shared online during election campaigns in the US, UK, France and Germany.  Lisa-Maria Neudert also stated that”Information to misinformation had a ratio of one to one, which I think was a dramatic finding In France we have had a ratio of seven-to-one and in the UK and also in Germany we had a ratio of four-to-one, so roughly 20 percent of fake news content that was being shared”


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