European Commission launches strategy against fake news

The Commission intends to establish a High Level Expert group and launch a public consultation on fake news and online disinformation. The results will provide input to the development of an EU-level strategy on how to tackle the spreading of fake news, to be presented in spring 2018.
“The freedom to receive and impart information and the pluralism of the media are enshrined in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights,“ said First Vice-President Frans Timmermans yesterday (13 November). “

“We live in an era where the flow of information and misinformation has become almost overwhelming. That is why we need to give our citizens the tools to identify fake news, improve trust online, and manage the information they receive.”

Citizens, social media platforms, news organisations (broadcasters, print media, news agencies, online media and fact-checkers), researchers and public authorities are all invited to share their views in the public consultation until mid-February.

This consultation only addresses fake news and disinformation online when the content is not per se illegal and thus not covered by existing EU or national legislative and self-regulatory actions.

Fake news or junk news, which deliberately manipulate public opinion, have become one of the top threats against a democratic society, as was demonstrated in the US presidential elections and in general elections in EU member states, with a high proportion of faked news on social media.

At a recent discussion in the European Parliament organized by the Alde political group on protection European democracy in a post-truth society, speakers mentioned the need to increase reader awareness and design debunking methods by journalists.

Striking a balance between criminalizing misinformation/incitement and freedom of expression is also important. Framing criticism against the government as fake news is a threat against democracy and public accountability.

How to spot fake news

– Check the media outlet: Who is behind the news?

– Check the author: Does he/she even exist?

– Check the references: Does the author use reliable sources?

– Think before you share: Does a catchy headline distort real or old events?

Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

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