European Commission sending millions of euro for independent media to combat disinformation
Věra Jourová (ANO), the Czech Republic's member of the European Commission, is in charge of the EU plan to defend democracy against hybrid threats. One of her main priorities is to support independent media and investigative journalism.
The European Commission is sending more than EUR 5 million to media organizations for that purpose. "This is just the beginning," Jourová claims.
Among those hybrid threats are, first and foremost, disinformation, the dissemination of conspiracy theories and hateful content, but also the non-transparent publishing of political advertisements targeted at Internet users on the basis of psychological profiling and the secret algorithms used by online platforms. In combating virtual threats, the so-called Digital Services Act, which the Commission will introduce by the end of the year, should be of aid first and foremost.
That EU law should establish, for the very first time, clear rules for Internet companies and online platforms, including the obligation to seek out the kinds of content mentioned above and to delete it. The legislation should also contain regulations about non-transparent profiles, targeted advertisements, fake news, and how algorithms function on social media.
However, according to Jourová, who is Vice-President of the European Commission for Transparency and European Values, that legislation will not be enough. In addition to the Digital Services Act, in the months to come she will also be creating an Action Plan for Democracy, the introduction of which is planned for the close of 2020 as well.
The Action Plan is meant to augment the legislative package on digital services in many respects. Jourová, who is in charge of creating the Action Plan, has set it three main aims - beefing up the free and independent media, expanding the accountability of media and online platforms, and protecting democratic institutions and processes.
For the time being it seems that it is exactly beefing up the free and independent media that is the number one priority for the Commission. At the beginning of March it made EUR 5.1 million available to aid European media outlets in coping with current problems.
Protection for journalists
The funding should be distributed among several projects. The first aims to provide protection to reporters and covers areas associated with fact-checking, refuting disinformation, informing the public and strengthening media literacy.
For that purpose the Commission has allocated EUR 1.4 million to a consortium under the leadership of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF). Another EUR 1.5 million will be given to the International Press Institute (IPI).
The aim of the IPI proejct is to promote cross-border investigative journalism in the EU. However, it is also meant to aid the increased mobility of young journalists or the creation of European media councils that would place an emphasis on ethical standards of journalistic work.
This financing and these projects are the first parts of an extensive mosaic that should grow during 2020 into the format of the Action Plan for Democracy tasked exactly with "defending and promoting democracy", according to Jourová. "We are facing very precise targeting (of political advertising and disinformation) that is based on our behavior," she recently said.
"We don't know how that content is being disseminated, that is not transparent, we don't even know who creates the algorithms used," she added. The Digital Services Act should combat that above all, but according to Jourová, success will not happen without beefing up independent media.
"Democracy cannot function without a free and independent media. Journalists should be able to work and write without fear. The projects mentioned are just the beginning," Jourová warned.
The Digital Services Act, which will regulate Internet companies and online platforms, will go exactly hand in hand with the Action Plan for Democracy, which is meant to beef up the media, according to Jourová. In that context, she has been repeatedly reminding the public of the dissemination of disinformation and fake news by China and Russia, the aim of which is to aid the information war to undermine democracy in Europe
"[China and Russia] will continue until we demonstrate to them that we will not tolerate such aggression and interference," Jourová declared during a discussion panel at the beginning of the year, during which she emphasized that it is necessary that people learn how to find out exactly what the sources of disinformation are. "We are also disturbed by how much disinformation is being disseminated by Europeans themselves. Some do it for profit, others are just useful idiots."
The original article in Czech was first published on HlidaciPes.org.
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