EU declares war on platforms distributing false news before European Parliament elections

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The European Union prepares to counter online social networking networks accused of spreading false news, warning Brussels that scandals such as the use of Facebook for electoral purposes risk "undermining democratic systems" before the European Parliament elections, writes Mediafax

"The European Commission fears that the future vote for the appointment of MEPs is vulnerable to online campaigns for Eurosceptic misinformation. Concerns have been highlighted by revelations that Cambridge Analytica's political analysis company illegally collected more than 50 million Facebook users to use for election purposes in the presidential election in the United States. Cambridge Analytica denied the use of Facebook data in election profile setup activities, editorialists Mehreen Khan and Michael Peel note in an article published in the Financial Times daily under the title "Brussels intends to counter fake news on online networks / Cambridge Analytica scandal amplifies concerns on the European Parliament elections. "

EU Commissioner for Security, Julian King, has called for a "clear" plan on how online social networking activities are being conducted in sensitive electoral periods, starting with the Euro-parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2019.

Julian King sent a letter to Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy, asking for more transparency on the algorithms that Internet platforms use to promote news, setting limits on personal data collection for political purposes, and disclosure by companies in the information technology field of the sources of financing "sponsored content". Julian King advocates a "more restrictive approach" instead of self-regulation, including by setting "clearly defined performance indicators". Julian King's proposals are backed by other commissioners who contribute to the European Union's plans to counter "online misinformation."

Cambridge Analytica's disclosures have speeded up debates, European officials urging for clearer legal lines on how online platforms should act to protect democracy

"Psychometric Profiling Activities" like those used by Cambridge Analytica are just a "preamble of the deeply worrying effects that actions such as misinformation can have on functional liberal democracies," says Julian King in the letter. "It is clear that the cyber threats we are confronted with are changing from those that target systems to those consisting in increasing the mobilization of computer resources to manipulate behaviors, to amplify societal cleavages, to undermine our democratic systems and to generate doubts over democratic institutions, "draws attention to the EU Security Commissioner

Brussels's warning comes in the context in which many states within the European Union are drafting "laws against false news", amid speculation about Russia's interference in elections in Europe in the last year. France is preparing laws to allow courts to remove or block false information in electoral campaigns. Germany has adopted a law against "hate speech messages" by which online platforms must immediately remove terrorist, xenophobic and fake content, otherwise they may face fines of up to 50 million.

EU officials fear that in the campaign ahead of the Euro-parliamentary poll in 2019, populist and Eurosceptic political forces could use online platforms to spread conspiracy theories, false news, and broadcast fraudulent videos. A survey conducted at EU level reveals that more than one third of European citizens meet false news every day and 83% consider this phenomenon a threat to democracy. However, critics of the European Commission's approach warn that there is a risk of blocking legitimate political debates.

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