US and EU must step up fight against disinformation

Step up fight against Russian anti-EU fake news

US and EU must step up fight against disinformation

US and EU actions to tackle ongoing Russian disinformation remain uneven

The spread of misinformation in the West, including from Russia, remains an important problem, but the actions of the US and the EU to combat attempts to influence public opinion through propaganda and stuffing of fake news remain insufficiently effective and coordinated. The United States lacks a unified strategy to combat disinformation, which remains a politically sensitive topic. In the EU, the existing strategy is voluntary for implementation by its member states.

Despite assurances from American departments that there was practically no foreign interference during the midterm elections to Congress last November, experts agree that this threat persists..

“To date, there is not enough information to assess interference in the midterm elections, but there was some interference. We have also seen constant interference in elections in European countries such as Germany last year. It is obvious that Russia has not abandoned its efforts to spread disinformation, ”he said. Nina Yankovich (Nina Jankowicz), Research Fellow, Kennan Institute, Wilson Center.

I agree with this assessment and David Salvo (David Salvo), Deputy Director of the Alliance for Democracy at the Marshall Fund (GMF). “Since the 2016 elections, a disinformation campaign aimed at deepening divisions among Americans has continued on an almost daily basis. The same can be observed in Europe, ”the expert noted..

Despite this, the actions of both the United States and the European Union to combat disinformation remain, according to experts, insufficiently active and coordinated..

“The US government lacks a unified strategy to combat disinformation,” says David Salvo, who believes that the lack of clear public support in this area from the US administration is also a problem..

“To some extent, we can talk about the lack of political will in the fight against disinformation due to how politically sensitive the whole problem of Russian interference for the Trump administration in the context of the 2016 elections is,” said Nina Yankovic.

With the fact that in the United States the topic of combating disinformation remains politically sensitive, I agree Alina Polyakova (Alina Polyakova), expert at the Brookings Institute. However, she notes, despite the lack of open support for combating disinformation from the administration, interdepartmental work is still underway, although often it is not public..

For example, under the Department of Homeland Security there is a special interdepartmental Task Force group, whose direct task, however, is the fight against extremism and terrorism. Also, in 2016, during the Obama administration in the United States, a Global Engagement Center was created in the State Department, the main task of which is also the fight against extremism and terrorism..

To counter foreign election interference efforts, the US Congress demanded the government to allocate $ 120 million to the Center back in 2016, but the first tranche of $ 40 million to fight Russian disinformation was received only in March 2018. Also, the work of the Center is aimed at combating disinformation outside, not inside the United States..

However, the lack of interdepartmental coordination remains, according to experts, a problem. “There is no central agency or person in the United States that would be responsible for coordinating efforts between different agencies to combat disinformation,” says David Salvo..

US and EU must step up fight against disinformation

Alina Polyakova notes that in the fight against disinformation, the role of the state is not central, but an approach that provides for the participation of the entire society is important. This involves joining efforts to combat disinformation from the public and private sectors, as well as civil society organizations, with the aim of creating public resistance in the long term. “There is no simple solution to this problem,” the expert notes..

The European Union, according to experts, to date has been able to achieve more in the fight against disinformation than the United States. So, already in 2015, the EU created the East Stratcom Task Force, a center that analyzes disinformation emanating from the Kremlin, and also, a year later, developed a common strategy to counter hybrid threats. In December last, on the eve of elections to the European Parliament, the EU announced an intensification of the fight against disinformation and more than doubling East Stratcom funding – from 1.9 million euros in 2018 to 5 million euros in 2019..

However, according to experts, this funding is not enough, and the strategies determine only the general vector of the EU in the fight against disinformation and are not binding. Thus, the implementation of EU initiatives to combat disinformation in different countries depends on the decisions of national governments..

Countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland and the Baltic states, according to Nina Jankovic, are leading in the fight against the spread of disinformation, while Italy, Greece or Germany do not consider Russian propaganda a big problem..

US and EU must step up fight against disinformation
US and EU must step up fight against disinformation

“There are useful initiatives in the EU, such as East Stratcom, to counter Russian misinformation aimed at the EU. Also, to study this issue, the EU has NATO Centers of Excellence. But these efforts are not well coordinated. Also, the EU is facing the fact that some of its members are less interested in solving the problems of combating disinformation, thereby complicating the overall confrontation with the EU, ”said David Salvo.

I agree with the assessment that the EU remains ahead in the fight against disinformation and Alina Polyakova. “Europe, in general, is far ahead both at the national level and at the EU level in this matter,” noted Alina Polyakova.

Nina Jankovic notes that the US, in addition to developing a common strategy and improving interagency coordination, should also follow the EU’s lead in initiatives to ensure transparency of political advertising, collaborate with technology companies and moderate online content..

More work should be done to educate the population about the problems of disinformation in both the US and the EU, experts say..

According to Alina Polyakova, cooperation between the EU and the US on combating disinformation is essential. “Europe and the United States should work to create a transatlantic coalition like the one that was created to fight the Islamic State,” the expert said..

  • Valeria Jegisman

    Voice of America journalist. Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economics

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