Press Release: Hostile propaganda: the EU must develop a firm response 
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Press Release: Hostile propaganda: the EU must develop a firm response 

  • Proactive measures to counteract and debunk propaganda
  • Penalties against those responsible for disinformation campaigns
  • Tech companies must do more to identify propaganda

MEPs strongly condemn the aggressive actions of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, which seek to undermine the normative foundations of European democracies.

In a resolution adopted by the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, MEPs take stock of the EU’s latest efforts to counteract hostile propaganda by third parties and propose new actions.

Robust response needed

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 resolution also recommends:

  • All EU countries that continue to deny the existence of disinformation and hostile propaganda, as well as its impact on public opinion, should recognise them, evaluate the situation within their territory and take proactive measures in order to counteract and debunk it,
  • The EU and its member states should consider developing a legal framework both at EU and international level for tackling hybrid threats, also covering targeted sanctions against those responsible for orchestrating and implementing disinformation campaigns,
  • the actions of social media companies, messenger services and search engine providers should be regulated to ensure their full transparency,
  • 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,
  • outsourcing propaganda and use of multiplying tools by hostile third parties should be investigated in more depth,
  • publicly naming the perpetrators and the goals they seek to achieve, and also publicising all debunked cases of hostile propaganda accompanied with a detailed factsheet,
  • urgently turning the EU’s East StratCom Task Force into a fully-fledged unit or even a bigger structure within the European External Action Service (EEAS), as well as providing all three EEAS Strategic Communication Task Forces with adequate financial and personnel resources, and
  • assisting accession countries and partners in the EU neighbourhood in their efforts to counteract hostile propaganda and disinformation activities.

Quote

“The European 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 prioritize 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”: said EP rapporteur Anna Elżbieta Fotyga (ECR, PL).

Next steps

The resolution was adopted by 49 votes in favour, 7 against and 2 abstentions. It will be tabled for a plenary vote during the February Strasbourg session.

Background

The resolution takes stock of the follow-up taken by the European External Action Service two years after the last EP report on EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda, which was adopted on 23 November 2016.