Commission warns of fake news, meddling in 2019 European elections

Photo: EPA Sir Julian King

The European elections are vulnerable to “fake news” and cyberattacks, and Member States should take the threat of election meddling seriously, Security Union Commissioner Sir Julian King has warned. “All Member States must take seriously the threats to the democratic process and institutions, and should have national plans to prevent them,” he told German Funke media group.

The EU has long ago called on social media companies and Member States to better fight online voter manipulation efforts. In particular, Commissioner King voiced concerns that foreign influence will be spread through social media, much like the cases of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections and the referendum on an EU agreement with Ukraine.

“We must prevent state and non-state actors from undermining our democratic system and using this against us,” he said adding that the manipulation employed by hackers who try to sway an election with targeted internet campaigns or the spread of so-called 'fake news” can be subtle and very harmful. The commissioner also insisted that online platforms like Facebook and YouTube should take responsibility as well. “We want to see real transparency, traceability and accountability online,” King pointed out, urging online giants to improve efforts in identifying and deleting fake accounts that spread misinformation.

The 2019 European election is scheduled to take place in late May 2019. Experts worry that the magnitude of the vote, with 27 countries participating simultaneously, will increase its vulnerability. They also fear that since many European citizens are unfamiliar with EU politics, they may be more susceptible to misinformation campaigns.

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