Tackling hostile propaganda

The EU must develop a firm and united response, MEPs urge

Anna Elzbieta Fotyga

In a resolution adopted last Tuesday by the Foreign Affairs Committee, MEPs took stock of the EU's latest efforts to counteract hostile propaganda by third parties and strongly condemned the aggressive actions of countries such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, which seek to undermine the normative foundations of European democracies

The Committee wants the EU and its Member States to adopt a firm response to tackling the increasingly sophisticated tools used by opinion formers and state-controlled institutions to spread disinformation, for example via private messaging apps, search engine optimisation, artificial intelligence and on-line news portals and TV-stations.

MEPs strongly condemn the increasingly aggressive actions of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea in this context, which seek to undermine the “normative foundations and principles of European democracies and sovereignty of all Eastern Partnership countries”, as well as influence political elections and support extremist movements, according to the text.

“The Parliament once more encourages the EU institutions to be more active in countering hostile disinformation. We have also invited all Member States to evaluate the situation within their territories. This report recalls the need to prioritise this issue at EU level. It proposes a number of recommendations on how to change the approach of our institutions, improve coordination or address the role of artificial intelligence and new technologies in advancing this threat,” rapporteur Anna Elzbieta Fotyga (ECR, PL) said.

The resolution recommends the EU and its Member States to consider developing a legal framework both at the Unionand international level for tackling hybrid threats, also covering targeted sanctions against those responsible for orchestrating and implementing disinformation campaigns. Furthermore, the actions of social media companies, messenger services and search engine providers should be regulated to ensure their full transparency.

MEPs urged ll EU countries that continue to deny the existence of disinformation and hostile propaganda, as well as its impact on public opinion, to finally recognise that such a threat exists, evaluate the situation within their territory and take proactive measures in order to counteract and debunk it.

According to the resolution recommendations technology companies should invest more in tools identifying propaganda and ensure better identity checks of platform users, in order to eliminate botnets as well as reducing financial incentives for those who profit from disinformation, while outsourcing propaganda and use of multiplying tools by hostile third parties should be investigated in more depth. The resolution will be tabled for a plenary vote in February.

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