EU leaders urged to fight disinformation plague

EU leaders have been urged to prioritise the fight against disinformation as the European Council meets for its June summit.

Leaders will receive a European Commission report on disinformation and elections in the wake of the European elections.

Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said the political leaders must “do more than just note this report – they must prioritise action”.

The report warns that “malign actors constantly change their strategies’ and said before the elections there was ‘evidence of coordinated inauthentic behaviour aimed at spreading divisive material on online platforms, including through the use of bots and fake accounts”.

It highlights tactics used by internal and external actors “in particular linked to Russian sources”.

Since January, all online platforms have made progress with regard to the transparency of political advertising and Facebook has taken steps to ensure the transparency of issue-based advertising, but “Google and Twitter need to catch up in this regard”.

But the report adds: “No sufficient progress was made in developing tools to increase the transparency and trustworthiness of websites hosting ads.”

Ms Stihler said: “European leaders gathering for this Council meeting must do more than just note this report – they must prioritise action.

“They must use their collective power to force online platforms to provide more detailed information allowing the identification of malign actors, put pressure on Google and Twitter to increase transparency, and encourage closer working with fact checkers to prevent the spread of disinformation.

“The best way to tackle disinformation is to make information open, allowing the research community to carry out analysis of disinformation operations.

“With upcoming national elections across the EU, including the prospect of an early General Election in the UK, this is of paramount importance to help rebuild trust in politics and build a fair, free and open future.”

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