Belgium will play a pivotal role in an initiative funded by the European Commission aimed at tackling the online spread of disinformation and fake news.
The Commission's European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) was launched to support community projects working to stop the spread of disinformation and fake news, of which the danger has been further accelerated by the digitisation of society and the coronavirus crisis.
"EDMO brings together European fact-checkers, media literacy experts and researchers to better map disinformation," said Professor Miguel Poiares Maduro, Chair of the EDMO Board of Directors.
"They provide a clearer picture of the situation at the national and regional level to promote the fight against disinformation," he added.
Belgium will be home to two of the eight European research hubs: One will be coordinated by the Free University of Brussels (VUB) as part of EDMO for Belgium and Luxembourg (EDMO BELUX) and one will be created as part of the Flemish-Dutch branch of the project.
Finding, analysing and debunking fake news
The Belgium-Luxembourg hub, which will be launched in October 2021, will gather a network of more than 100 experienced fact-checkers, employees from media organisations (including RFL and Agence France-Presse), disinformation analysts, media literacy organisations.
The aim of the initiative is to detect, analyse and expose emerging harmful disinformation campaigns and to increase media literacy in five languages (Dutch, French, English, German, Luxembourgish).
Within the network, rapid alerts will reach first responders to disinformation (media, civil society, government) in order to minimise the impact of disinformation campaigns.
The project will also include media literacy campaigns to raise awareness among and empower citizens and media, whilst it will monitor the impact of disinformation and platform responses on democratic processes.
Meanwhile, a second multidisciplinary hub will be established by the Dutch-speaking equivalent of EDMO, which received €2 million in funding from the Commission, also to increase media literacy and to detect the spread of fake news.
Both hubs, which will work closely together, will also produce and publish fact-checks.
"The different hubs launched this year in different Member States are exchanging results, so efforts in the Netherlands and Belgium also contribute to the broader agenda to support the news ecosystem in Europe," said Johan Oomen, project coordinator of EDMO, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision.