The EESC takes careful note of the initiative's definition of disinformation as verifiably false or misleading information that is a threat to democracy and does public harm. Spreading disinformation has become a part of a hybrid war with a clear political aim. However, it also emphasises that, in addition to false information, highly selective information, defamation, scare-mongering and inciting hatred attack citizens' fundamental rights (freedoms) and minority rights.
Multiple actions from all stakeholders are needed to provide quality information and raise awareness. To this end, the EESC welcomes the initiative for coordinated action to protect the EU, its institutions and its citizens against disinformation. The EESC emphasises the urgency of such measures but is also concerned, however, that the impact of this action plan might be limited given that the May 2019 European elections are not far off.
Building resilience means involving all sectors of society and, in particular, improving citizens' media literacy. Awareness-raising and critical thinking start at school but also require a continuous lifelong refresher. These activities require allocation of proper funding – right now and in the new Multiannual Financial Framework.
The EESC welcomes the Code of Practice as a voluntary commitment for social media platforms and advertisers to fight disinformation, but at the same time has doubts about the effectiveness of such voluntary actions. The Commission is urged to propose further actions, including actions of a regulatory nature like penalties, should the implementation of the Code of Practice continue to be unsatisfactory.