Brussels, 26 April 2018 – Today, the Commission is proposing measures to tackle disinformation online, including an EU-wide Code of Practice on Disinformation, support for an independent network of fact-checkers, and a series of actions to stimulate quality journalism and promote media literacy.
The recent Facebook/Cambridge Analytica revelations demonstrated exactly how personal data can be exploited in electoral contexts, and are a timely reminder that more is needed to secure resilient democratic processes. Today the European Commission is taking steps forward in the fight against disinformation to ensure the protection of European values and security.
Vice-President Ansip Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “Disinformation is not new as an instrument of political influence. New technologies, especially digital, have expanded its reach via the online environment to undermine our democracy and society. Since online trust is easy to break but difficult to rebuild, industry needs to work together with us on this issue. Online platforms have an important role to play in fighting disinformation campaigns organised by individuals and countries who aim to threaten our democracy.”
Commissioner Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, said: “We are calling on all actors, in particular platforms and social networks who have a clear responsibility, to act on the basis of an action plan aiming at a common European approach so that citizens are empowered and effectively protected against disinformation. We will closely monitor the progress made and may propose further actions by December, including measures of regulatory nature, should the results prove unsatisfactory.”
Commissioner for the Security Union Sir Julian King said: “The weaponisation of on-line fake news and disinformation poses a serious security threat to our societies. The subversion of trusted channels to peddle pernicious and divisive content requires a clear-eyed response based on increased transparency, traceability and accountability. Internet platforms have a vital role to play in countering the abuse of their infrastructure by hostile actors and in keeping their users, and society, safe.”
Based on the independent report published in March 2018 by the High-Level Group on Fake News and Online Disinformation as well as wider consultations carried out over the past six months, the Commission defines disinformation as “verifiably false or misleading information that is created, presented and disseminated for economic gain or to intentionally deceive the public, and may cause public harm”.
In the latest Eurobarometer survey, 83% of respondents said that fake news represents a danger to democracy. Respondents were particularly concerned by intentional disinformation aimed at influencing elections and immigration policies. The survey also emphasised the importance of quality media: respondents perceive traditional media as the most trusted source of news (radio 70%, TV 66%, print 63%). Online sources of news and video hosting websites are the least trusted source of news, with trust rates of 26% and 27% respectively.
The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre has published a study on fake news and disinformation. It points out that two thirds of consumers of online news prefer to access it through algorithm-driven platforms such as search engines and news aggregators, and social media websites. It also states that market power and revenue streams have shifted from news publishers to platform operators who have the data to match readers, articles and ads.
Measures to tackle disinformation online
To address these concerns and trends, the Commission is proposing a series of measures to tackle disinformation online. These include:
- A Code of Practice on Disinformation: By July, and as a first step, online platforms should develop and follow a common Code of Practice with the aim of:
- Ensuring transparency about sponsored content, in particular political advertising, as well as restricting targeting options for political advertising and reducing revenues for purveyors of disinformation;
- Providing greater clarity about the functioning of algorithms and enabling third-party verification;
- Making it easier for users to discover and access different news sources representing alternative viewpoints;
- Introducing measures to identify and close fake accounts and to tackle the issue of automatic bots;
- Enabling fact-checkers, researchers and public authorities to continuously monitor online disinformation;
- An independent European network of fact-checkers: this will establish common working methods, exchange best practices, and work to achieve the broadest possible coverage of factual corrections across the EU; they will be selected from the EU members of the International Fact Checking Network which follows a strict International Fact Checking NetworkCode of Principles;
- A secure European online platform on disinformation to support the network of fact-checkers and relevant academic researchers with cross-border data collection and analysis, as well as access to EU-wide data;
- Enhancing media literacy: Higher level of media literacy will help Europeans to identify online disinformation and approach online content with a critical eye.To this end, the Commission will encourage fact-checkers and civil society organisations to provide educational material to schools and educators and organise a European Week of Media Literacy;
- Support for Member States in ensuring the resilience of elections against increasingly complex cyber threats, including online disinformation and cyber attacks;
- Promotion of voluntary online identification systems to improve the traceability and identification of suppliers of information and promote more trust and reliability in online interactions and in information and its sources;
- Support for quality and diversified information: The Commission is calling on Member States to scale up their support of quality journalism to ensure a pluralistic, diverse and sustainable media environment. The Commission will launch a call for proposals in 2018 for the production and dissemination of quality news content on EU affairs through data-driven news media;
- A Coordinated Strategic Communication Policy, drafted by the Commission services, combining current and future EU initiatives on online disinformation with those of Member States, will set out outreach activities aimed at countering false narratives about Europe and tackling disinformation within and outside the EU.
The Commission will shortly convene a multi-stakeholder forum to provide a framework for efficient cooperation among relevant stakeholders, including online platforms, the advertising industry and major advertisers, and to secure a commitment to coordinate and scale up efforts to tackle disinformation. The forum’s first output should be an EU–wide Code of Practice on Disinformation to be published by July 2018, with a view to having a measurable impact by October 2018.
By December 2018, the Commission will report on the progress made. The report will also examine the need for further action to ensure the continuous monitoring and evaluation of the outlined actions.
In his mission letter of May 2017, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker tasked Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel with outlining the challenges that online platforms create for our democracies with regard to disinformation and initiating an EU response to these challenges.
In February 2018, the Commission adopted a list of recommendations looking ahead to the 2019 elections to the European Parliament calling for: “competent national authorities […] to identify, based on the experiences of Member States, best practices in the identification, mitigation and management of risks to the electoral process from cyberattacks and disinformation”.
A High Level Expert Group on Fake News (HLEG) advised the Commission on tackling online disinformation. The Group’s conclusions and recommendations were published on 12 March 2018.
Prior to these initiatives, the European Union was already active in the fight against disinformation: in 2015, the East StratCom Task Force, under High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini’s responsibility, was set up following a decision of the European Council in March 2015, in order “to challenge Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns“. The Task Force has operated within the European External Action Service since September 2015, effectively communicating the EU’s policies towards its eastern neighbourhood; strengthening the overall media environment in the eastern neighbourhood, including providing support for media freedom and strengthening independent media; and improving the EU’s capacity to forecast, address and raise awareness of pro-Kremlin disinformation activities.
For More Information
Public Consultation (synopsis report)
Report of the High Level Expert Group on Fake news & disinformation
Nathalie VANDYSTADT (+32 2 296 70 83)
Julia-Henriette BRAUER (+32 2 298 07 07)
Inga HOGLUND (+32 2 295 06 98)
General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email
EGBA Welcomes EC Commitment to Improve Digital Single Market
The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has welcomed the European Commission’s commitment to improving the digital single market.
In its work programme, the Commission announces several new initiatives aimed at strengthening the operation of the single market, particularly for digital services, and making it work more effectively for online consumers.
EGBA believes the Commission’s commitment to improving the digital single market should include a review of its approach to online gambling. With more than 16.5 million Europeans betting online, there is clearly a need for a more consistent EU policy towards this cross-border sector worth €22.2 billion and growing by 10% each year.
“EGBA welcomes the Commission’s commitment to making the single market work for online consumers. More than 16.5 million Europeans bet online but their rights are not protected by any EU rules. It is time to bring the EU’s approach to online gambling into the 21st century – the Commission should act,” Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of EGBA, said.
European Commission Criticises Third German State Treaty on Gambling
The European Commission has criticised the latest incarnation of Germany’s State Treaty on Gambling.
After the proposed legislation was submitted to the Commission in May, general director Lowri Evans has submitted a response which casts doubt on the effectiveness of the planned framework.
Evans criticised the short-term nature of the third amended State Treaty on Gambling. Evans questioned the logic of implementing the Treaty for such a short period from 1 January 2020 to 30 June 2021.
In order to secure a licence, operators will be required to shut down any online casino offerings and offer sports betting without in-play wagering. Players will be restricted to spending €1000 per month, with a 5% turnover tax levied on licensees. These restrictions and fees are expected to slash operators’ revenue should they be fully enforced.
Evans noted that the controls to be implemented could make the market particularly unattractive for operators. With the processing of licence applications to begin from 2 January, the first working day of 2020, licences could be valid for less than 18 months.
Evans casts doubt on whether goals of the Treaty, such as increasing player protection and driving unlicensed operators from the market, could be achieved in an 18-month period. Evans also queried when the effectiveness of the Treaty would be assessed, something pledged when it was first introduced in 2012.
“The Commission emphasises the need for a continuous evaluation of the implementation and application of the State Treaty, in particular (but not limited to) sports betting. The German authorities have already committed in 2012 […] to an evaluation of the appropriateness and effectiveness of the provisions relating to sports betting. Unfortunately, in view of the previous non-award of sports betting licenses, no such evaluation has yet been carried out. Therefore, the German authorities are invited to [explain] how and when an evaluation of the appropriateness and effectiveness of the sports betting provisions will take place,” Evans stated.
Europe that Protects: Stronger rules criminalising money laundering enter into force
Today, the new measures to counter money laundering by criminal law enter into force across the EU. The new rules will ensure that dangerous criminals and terrorists face equally severe penalties for money laundering wherever they are in the EU, with a minimum term of imprisonment of 4 years.
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “If we want to catch criminals and terrorists, we have to follow the money. Today, we are beefing up the EU’s response to money laundering, making sure that criminals and terrorists no longer get away with illegally gained money and face deserved justice. A Europe that protects is a Europe that effectively prevents and prosecutes criminals.”
Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King said: “Money laundering is a key tool used by terrorists and serious criminals to obtain funding – by harmonising the crime and the punishment across the EU, we can further close down the space in which they operate. Member States now need to implement the new rules without delay.”
The Commission proposed to harmonise offences and sanctions for money laundering across the EU in December 2017. While all Member States currently criminalise money laundering the definitions of this crime as well as the penalties related to it differ across the EU, allowing criminals to effectively “window shop” and exploit the differences between national legislation.
With the new rules in force that will be no longer possible. Member States now have 24 months to implement the new rules into national law and notify the Commission accordingly.
The recent changes and all AML related topics will be highlighted during Prague Gaming Summit by the attending experts of the gambling industry in a special panel discussion. You can find more details on the following page.
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