The European Commission said on Thursday that it will look to “impose a cost” on those who spread fake news.
The EU executive’s vice president Vera Jourova says she will unveil legislation next year that will target entities, especially “foreign actors” from such countries as Russia and China, that spread disinformation.
“We are not looking to become the Ministry of Truth,” the senior EU official told journalists in Brussels, referring to George Orwell’s dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.
Jourova said that the new regulation would be “to ensure fair public debates.”
“New technologies should be tools for emancipation, not disinformation. But we don’t want elections to be bought with dirty money. We saw enough with the Cambridge Analytica and the Brexit referendum.”
Legislation is expected to be unveiled in the third quarter of next year, EU sources said.
It is expected that any kind of sanctions would follow the EU’s cyber-sanction regime, which was used for the first time this year to freeze assets and introduce visa bans on offenders — primarily Russian, Chinese, and North Korean citizens and companies — believed to have attacked the bloc.
It is the first time that the European Commission has suggesting imposing sanctions for the spread of disinformation.
The policy paper says the plan comes at a time when “pressure is mounting on democracy, the rule of law, and human rights globally.”
The EU already has its East StratCom Task Force, a division of the EU’s External Action Service, that monitors Russian disinformation. It has identified 10,000 examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation since it started monitoring in 2015.
Jourova said that Europeans were being inundated with “an avalanche” of misinformation, especially during the current coronavirus pandemic, that aims to harm people in Europe.
Next week the EU will also propose new laws for online platforms such Facebook, Google and Twitter to take more action on the transparency of ad placements and moves against fake accounts.
jf/msh (AFP, dpa)