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European Union report advocates promoting ‘media and information literacy’ to counter ‘fake news’

by on 13th March 2018

A “High Level Expert Group” (HLEG) set-up by the European Commission earlier this year recommends promoting “media and information literacy,” and enhancing the transparency of platforms which circulate news online, to combat “fake news”.

In its report titled “a multi-dimensional approach to disinformation,” the group also expresses a desire to disassociate from the term “fake news,” preferring instead to utilize the term “disinformation”.

It goes on to state it wishes to disassociate from fakes news “because it has been appropriated by some politicians and their supporters, who use the term to dismiss coverage that they find disagreeable, and has thus become a weapon with which powerful actors can interfere in circulation of information and attack and undermine independent news media”.

According to the report, disinformation refers to “all forms of false, inaccurate or misleading information designed, presented and promoted to intentionally cause public harm or for profit”.

The report’s remit only extends to disinformation i.e. it doesn’t focus on illegal content or “hate speech,” however it doesn’t attempt to quantify the scale of disinformation.

The HLEG recommends a “multi-dimensional” approach to tackling the creation and spread of disinformation online, including:

  • enhancing transparency of online news;
  • promoting media and information literacy to counter disinformation;
  • developing tools for empowering users and journalists to tackle disinformation;
  • safeguarding “the diversity and sustainability of the European news media ecosystem,” and
  • promoting “continued research on the impact of disinformation in Europe”

The report also calls on all relevant stakeholders, which it deems includes journalists, news organizations, fact-checkers, the advertising industry and independent content creators, to sign a “Code of Practices” which should outline the roles and responsibilities of its signatories.

It also proposes establishing a “network of independent European centres for…research on disinformation.” This group would be tasked with roles including:

  • monitoring the scale of disinformation;
  • “assessing the veracity of factual claims”;
  • identifying source of disinformation;
  • providing a “safe space” for analysing platforms’ data

The report comes in the aftermath of another report published earlier this year by Vera Jourova, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, which criticised tech firms for failing to adopt EU rules — e.g. the removal of illegal content and improving lines of communication between tech platforms and national authorities — at a pace it deems appropriate.

Vera Jourova stated she believes “it is unacceptable that this is still not complete and it is taking so much time”.

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