On April 26, the European Commission presented its plan to address disinformation. So far (48 hours after publication), there has not been much press reporting, the following links are however not exhaustive.
The EU Communication encompasses a code of practice developed by online platforms, to be published by July 2018. It also encourages media literacy and the creation of a European network of independent fact-checkers.
If this approach based on self-regulation does not reduce the spread of disinformation campaigns, the Commission intends to legislate ahead of 2019 EU election.
According to some of the French press, the Commission is not going far enough, questioning the credibility of self-regulation (Le Monde: « Fake news » : Bruxelles mise sur l’autorégulation).
Others pointed to unclear implementation checks and predicted limited impact (Europe 1: Les mesures de l’Europe pour lutter contre les fausses informations). Indeed, it is difficult to find specific actions that might be included in the future legislation (EURACTIV: Commission threatens to legislate on ‘fake news’ ahead of 2019 EU election).
The consumer association BEUC, which was also part of the EU High-Level Expert Group on online disinformation, said that this plan ignored the issued raised by platforms’ business model: clickbait and opaque ad revenue (L’OBS: “Fake news” : la Commission européenne met la pression sur les réseaux sociaux). Christophe Leclercq is a member of the subgroup representing the press within this Expert Group, and his summary of the report is available here.
In this grey area of manufactured and misleading information, other articles highlighted freedom of speech and the weaponisation of online false information (Reuters: EU piles pressure on social media over fake news).
According to some German newspapers, ‘’the plans to strengthen quality media remain vague” since the Commission is delegating this area to EU states (Heise online: Fake News: EU will Verhaltenskodex, aber keine Vorschriften).
The High-Level Group report was more ambitious on the issues of transparency and sustainability of the media sector. 39 experts advocate that quality journalism should be promoted and media diversity retained in order to counter disinformation. For example in the report they recommended:
“[The European Commission should:] Pursuing and intensifying efforts in support of media innovation projects, including through funding for R&I, to empower journalists in dealing with disinformation. The Commission is invited to tender by summer 2018 an independent study on Media sustainability to inform its policy and budget pipeline for 2019-2024.”
On this matter, the Commission did not follow entirely the Expert Group, but it announced that it “will launch a call in 2018 for the production and dissemination of quality news content on EU affairs through data-driven news media. Building on ongoing projects, the Commission will explore increased funding opportunities to support initiatives promoting media freedom and pluralism, quality news media and journalism, including skills, training for journalists, new technologies for newsrooms, and collaborative data-driven platforms”.
Clearly, ideas in this area are hugely relevant to the media sector, but they need “more flesh” before capturing attention.