The European Parliament strongly condemned Russia, China, Iran and North Korea’s increasingly aggressive actions, “which seek to undermine the foundations and principles of European democracies as well as the sovereignty of all Eastern Partnership countries.”
Taking stock of the EU’s latest efforts to counteract hostile propaganda by third parties, MEPs on Wednesday, March 13, called upon member states to consider developing a robust legal framework at both EU and international level to tackle hybrid threats.
In the resolution, adopted by 489 to 148 and 30 abstentions, MEPs want “to raise awareness about Russia’s disinformation campaigns, as this constitutes the main source of disinformation in Europe”.
MEPs urge the EU to expand its East StratCom Task Force, set up in 2015, into a fully-fledged structure within the European External Action Service, to address Russia’s hostile propaganda.
MEPs call for social media companies, messenger services and search engine providers to be regulated by law. Companies failing to speedily remove systemic fake news should be held to account. Furthermore, authorities should be able to identify and locate authors and sponsors of submitted political content.
Also in their resolution, MEPs strongly condemned third parties interfering in elections and referenda. "Member states are invited to amend electoral laws that would enable them to proactively counteract threats stemming from disinformation campaigns, cyberattacks, cybercrimes and violation of freedom of expression when voting," the EP press service wrote.
Member states should support EU-associated countries and the Western Balkans to ensure a robust defense of their electoral processes from malicious propaganda activities, MEPs say.
In a vote on Tuesday, Parliament also adopted legislation to protect the May 2019 European elections from data misuse, following the findings on the UK Brexit referendum and the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal. The new rules introduce financial sanctions against European political parties and foundations that may deliberately misuse personal data in their European election campaigns.
“Disinformation poisons hearts and minds. We can no longer deny the fact that our institutions and societies are targeted by the Kremlin's hostile propaganda, which is part of a broader strategy. Fortunately, we are more experienced, determined and united to counter such activities. Our answer depends on resilient societies, transparent media and encouraging pluralism while avoiding censorship.” Said rapporteur Anna Elżbieta Fotyga.
The resolution takes stock of the follow-up by the European External Action Service on the last EP resolution on EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda, which was adopted on 23 November 2016.
MEPs have noted that other major disinformation players are China, Iran, and North Korea.