Concerned EU Politicians Push For Legal Action Against Fake News

The European Commission’s refusal to propose legislation against fake news and interference, mostly from Russia, has led a group of eurodeputies (MEPs) from several countries, including Spain, to urge their own governments to find an alternative way to stop populist, xenophobic and separatist groups from growing within the European Parliament, which is holding elections next year.

These campaigners have found the solution in Articles 74 and 76 of the Lisbon Treaty: a quarter of the member states may legislate invoking the need to ensure administrative cooperation. On the basis of this, a group of MEP’s, mostly from the majority Christian Democrat bloc, have asked their respective governments to introduce legislation that will create logistical and technical hurdles for propaganda agents who pose as conventional news outlets. Russia’s RT and Sputnik are two cases in point.

Our goal must be to preserve freedom of expression, while demanding greater cooperation and accountability from digital platforms

EP Vice-President Ramón Luis Valcárcel

Last week, European Parliament vice-president Ramón Luis Valcárcel, of Spain, detailed the measures in a speech to fellow members of the European People’s Party (EPP).

“Our goal must be to preserve freedom of expression, while demanding greater cooperation and accountability from digital platforms, forcing Russian media outlets to identify themselves for what they are – external agitators – and encouraging media literacy to make citizens more resilient to offensives that seek to manipulate them. We need a true shield against lies and disinformation.”

Valcárcel, who has been banned from entering Russia because of his support for democracy in Ukraine, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “gives every country exactly what it needs to fail: fear of immigrants, rejection of those who are different, separatist fuel, anti-establishment movements, and even a catalogue of authoritarian policies that hark back to the worst periods of the past.”

“Russia has no qualms about supporting the far right and the far left within the same country, as it is doing in Greece,” he added. “Or about stoking the fire of radical leftist populism, or of stale nationalism, as we are witnessing in Spain. Because Russia’s goal is for us to self-destruct from within, without having to mobilize its own army or worry too much about maintaining geopolitical balances.”

Digital Agenda Commissioner Mariya Gabriel (right).
Digital Agenda Commissioner Mariya Gabriel (right). EFE

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