New report sets guidelines for EU effort to tackle disinformation

Today, the European Commission’s High Level Expert Group (HLEG) on fake news and online disinformation published its first report on digital disinformation within the EU, outlining the scope of the problem and steps stakeholders can take to provide citizens with more trustworthy information.

by Simone Flueckiger | March 12, 2018

“This is the first important step in a pan European approach to ensure that Member States remain resilient in the face of increasing and deliberate disinformation,” said Expert Group member Stephen Rae, Editor in Chief of Independent News and Media and Board Member of the World Editors Forum.

Stephen Rae, Editor in Chief of Independent News and Media and Board Member of the World Editors ForumStephen Rae, Editor in Chief of Independent News and Media and Board Member of the World Editors Forum“Safeguarding our democratic process and educating and protecting children must remain paramount in this time of media disruption. Politicians, platform providers, members of the media and parents all have an important role to play in protecting our right to fair accurate and balanced information now and in the future.”

A Code of Practices to counter disinformation

As a first step, the group, which is made up of 39 members, urges online platforms, news media organisations, journalists, fact-checkers, independent content creators and the advertising industry to commit to a Code of Practices to counter disinformation and “to promote an enabling environment for freedom of expression by fostering the transparency and intelligibility of different types of digital information channels”.

The plan is to establish a Coalition representing all relevant stakeholders with the purpose of elaborating the Code and overseeing its implementation.

The group has already formulated ten principles outlining objectives for platforms (a term referring to a broad range of activities, including, among others, social media platforms, search engines, and news aggregators) in a bid to diminish the amount of disinformation online and to promote quality content.

Set to be enshrined in the Code, the principles require platforms to, for example, adapt their advertising policies, share data for fact-checking and research purposes, promote the visibility of reliable and trustworthy news, give users access to advanced settings to enable them to customise their online experience, and equip them, where appropriate, with user-friendly tools to allow them to link up with trusted fact-checking sources.

Key intervention areas

Additionally, the authors of the report have identified five key intervention areas to counter the growing threat of disinformation.

As such, they recommend efforts to be geared towards enhancing transparency around funding sources and journalistic processes, promoting media and information literacy programmes, developing tools to empower users and journalists to tackle disinformation, safeguarding the diversity and sustainability of the media ecosystem, and putting in place processes to evaluate the measures taken by different actors on an ongoing basis.

“I strongly urge office holders and platform providers to take cognisance of the recommendations of the report and ask that parents pay close attention to the sections which recommend changes in our education system,” Rae said.

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