(STRASBOURG) – Russia’s disinformation campaigns are the main source of fake news in Europe, along with China, Iran and North Korea, MEPs said Thursday, calling on the EU to fight back against hostile propaganda.
In its resolution, the European Parliament strongly condemned increasingly aggressive actions by Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, “which seek to undermine the foundations and principles of European democracies as well as the sovereignty of all Eastern Partnership countries.”
“Disinformation poisons hearts and minds,” said rapporteur Anna Elzbieta Fotyga MEP: “We can no longer deny the fact that our institutions and societies are targeted by the Kremlin’s hostile propaganda, which is part of a broader strategy.”
“Fortunately, we are more experienced, determined and united to counter such activities. Our answer depends on resilient societies, transparent media and encouraging pluralism while avoiding censorship.”
Taking stock of the EU efforts to counteract hostile propaganda by third parties, MEPs now call upon Member States to consider developing a robust legal framework at both EU and international level to tackle hybrid threats.
In the resolution, MEPs want “to raise awareness about Russia’s disinformation campaigns, as this constitutes the main source of disinformation in Europe”. MEPs urge the EU to expand its East StratCom Task Force, set up in 2015, into a fully-fledged structure within the European External Action Service, to address Russia’s hostile propaganda.
MEPs call for social media companies, messenger services and search engine providers to be regulated by law. Companies failing to speedily remove systemic fake news should be held to account. Furthermore, authorities should be able to identify and locate authors and sponsors of submitted political content.
MEPs strongly condemned third parties interfering in elections and referenda. Member states are invited to amend electoral laws that would enable them to proactively counteract threats stemming from disinformation campaigns, cyberattacks, cybercrimes and violation of freedom of expression when voting.
Member states should support EU-associated countries and the Western Balkans to ensure a robust defence of their electoral processes from malicious propaganda activities.
In a vote on Tuesday, Parliament also adopted legislation to protect the May 2019 European elections from data misuse, following the findings on the UK Brexit referendum and the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal. The new rules introduce financial sanctions against European political parties and foundations that may deliberately misuse personal data in their European election campaigns.