EU watchdog launches audit of the fight against fake news
Tuesday, 17 March 2020
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) announced today that it has launched an audit of EU’s fight against fake news.
The audit comes timely in view of the spread of false or misleading information in the current corona crisis. The auditors plan to examine EU’s efforts to fight the spread of verifiably false or misleading information for the purposes of economic gain or intentionally deceiving the public, which may cause public harm.
The rise of the internet, social media and new digital technologies have revolutionised the way people are informed and communicate, writes ECA. At the same time, this has also brought about increasing challenges, such as unauthorised access and use of data, as well as rapid amplification of misleading content. Sensitive topics such as migration, climate change and health issues are often used to polarise society.
“Any attempt to maliciously and intentionally undermine and manipulate public opinion can represent a serious threat to the Union itself,” said Baudilio Tomé Muguruza, the ECA Member leading the audit. “EU citizens must know whether the EU Action Plan against disinformation is effective.”
Combating disinformation needs to strike the right balance between safeguarding democracy in the EU on the one hand and maintaining the fundamental rights to freedom of speech and media pluralism on the other. According to the European External Action Service (EEAS), Russian disinformation poses the greatest threat to the EU, but other third countries have also started to deploy similar strategies.
The background and scope of the audit is described in an audit preview by ECA. In March 2019, the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy, in cooperation with the Member States, set up the rapid alert system to enhance cooperation and coordination between all actors involved in tackling disinformation.