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“Healthy democracy relies on open, free and fair public debate. It's our duty to protect this space and not allow anybody to spread disinformation that fuels hatred, division, and mistrust in democracy”, High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said on the adoption of the Action Plan against Disinformation. The Action Plan answers the call of the European Council to protect the Union’s democratic systems and combat disinformation, and builds up with additional measures and resources on the EU’s work done to date to combat disinformation.
High Representative recalled that joint action was required from all actors, including the private sector and civil society, to effectively tackle this challenge. “As the EU, we've decided to act together and reinforce our response, to support the resilience of our societies, within our borders and in the neighbourhood. It's the European way to respond to one of the main challenges of our times."
The Action Plan lays out 10 concrete actions across 4 key pillars:
The plan proposes to increase institutional capabilities to better understand disinformation: detect it, analyse and expose. This requires investments in tools and specialised human skills within the EU institutions and its Delegations in third countries. It equally calls for the EU Member States to complement these actions by stepping up their own national capabilities to deal with disinformation.
A dedicated Rapid Alert System will be set up among the EU institutions and Member States. The System will build on a secure digital platform, where Member States can share information on ongoing foreign disinformation campaigns with one another, and coordinate responses. This should also save time and resources.
Online platforms have a crucial role to play in tackling disinformation, and the signatories of the EU’s Code of Practice should swiftly and effectively implement their commitments, focusing on actions that are urgent for the 2019 European elections. This means ensuring transparency of political advertising, stepping up efforts to close active fake accounts, and labelling non-human interactions (e.g. messages spread automatically by ‘bots').
Greater public awareness is essential in improving the resilience of societies against disinformation and empowering citizens to better understand the digital space. In this sense, independent fact-checkers and media also play a crucial role, and the EU will step up its programmes supporting media literacy, information campaigns and investigative journalism, among others.