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Initiative addressing online platform challenges as regards the spreading of disinformation (Communication)

EESC opinion: Initiative addressing online platform challenges as regards the spreading of disinformation (Communication)

Key points:

  • A variety of tools and methods are currently used to undermine European values and external actions of the EU, as well as to develop and provoke separatist and nationalistic attitudes, manipulate the public and conduct direct interference in the domestic policy of sovereign countries and the EU as a whole. Moreover, the growing influence of cyber offensive capabilities and increased weaponization of technologies to achieve political goals is observed. The impact of such actions is often underestimated.
  • The EESC agrees with the Commission's call for more responsibility on the part of social media platforms. However, despite the existence of several studies and policy papers produced by European specialists in the last few years, the Commission's communication lacks any practical mandatory steps to ensure this.
  • The EESC invites the Commission to finish discussion of the legal liability regime for online platforms and implement targeted regulation of the online platforms with respect to their definition and character. Online platforms and social networks should commit to such measures as to ensure transparency and be encouraged to take effective measures to improve the visibility of reliable, trustworthy news and facilitate users’ access to it.
  • On the basis of available research the EU should ensure and continue research on the impact of disinformation in Europe, amongst others by monitoring Europeans' resilience towards disinformation in future Eurobarometer surveys. The Commission's lack of urgency and ambition fails to address fundamental issues like the support schemes for traditional media in order to ensure the fundamental right of citizens to qualitative and reliable information. The EESC agrees with the Commission that the fact-checking community should work closely together. Similar networks already exist, including one under the umbrella of the East StratCom Task Force. The EESC calls on the Commission and Member States to fully support the efforts of the East StratCom Task Force. This should include not only a proper budget, but also active involvement by all Member States in its work. The website presenting the results of this task force's efforts should be more proactively communicated in order to raise public awareness in the EU of the threats.