The European Union must fight harder against the spread of fake news, which has become widespread in the digital age. Still, there are essentially no effective mechanisms in place for such a battle, said Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, a member of the European Parliament from Germany and Vice-Chairman of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee, in a comment to journalists.
“The main instrument in the fight against misinformation is a highly educated society that can reveal and recognize fake news, what type of information it conveys, and how to fact-check it,” Cramon-Taubadel stated.
The MEP further revealed that it is still very difficult to defend legally against fakes and smear campaigns, especially when it comes to slander.
“The law is tied to the physical world, not the virtual one. Our prosecutors cannot keep track of all the cases which may be relevant and which could be brought before a criminal court – and that is a problem. Therefore, we need a better justice system, more prosecutors specializing in the digital environment, and an effective way to address such issues. We have to come up with a systematic approach to working with large digital companies and all social media,” said Cramon-Taubadel.
The European Union remains helpless in the face of smear campaigns using fake information. Meanwhile, the people behind such campaigns are becoming more creative and audacious – particularly those involved in spreading Russian propaganda.
“Concerning the systematic misinformation that often comes from Russia and its propaganda institutions, its main goal is destabilization. They cleverly designed these deceptive campaigns in various countries to make them appear not alike. In Ukraine, the used narratives entirely differ from those that appear in Germany, which, in turn, are completely unlike the ones in the Czech Republic, and so on. That is, in the EU, there are different forms of deceptive campaigns that are usually run by the Russian Federation,” explained Viola von Cramon-Taubadel.
Fake news distributors feel confident enough to target the main institutions of free Europe – the European Commission and the European Parliament. A striking example is a hoax created by Dmytro Fomenko, a businessman from Dnipro (Ukraine). He announced a roundtable to take place in the European Parliament on June 16, 2020. The event was supposed to be organized by the European People’s Party, and among the participants were well-known European parliamentarians – Viola von Cramon-Taubadel among them. Soon, it became clear that neither the European People’s Party nor the deputies knew anything about this roundtable. Ultimately, the event did not happen at all. As journalists later found out, it was a complete fake.
“In general, such events – with the co-organization of deputies – can come about. Having said that, it is quite appalling to steal and illegally use the logo of a party or political group and create a fake event,” stated Viola von Cramon-Taubadel.
Even before the roundtable supposedly took place, the MEP denied her participation in it, calling the event “fake news.” Fomenko later accused Cramon-Taubadel of working for the Kremlin and receiving bribes for denying her participation in the event.
“This person is not even worth mentioning. As I have said, Ukraine suffers from many significant problems: it is on the verge of an economic crisis; the country cannot properly deal with the pandemic as well. We have to talk about serious topics concerning Ukraine, which are plenty; not about this case of Fomenko, which I’m not going to discuss any further,” said Cramon-Taubadel.
Meanwhile, Fomenko’s case has proved once again that the EU needs to review its policy on organizers and distributors of fake news. In the digital age, information is capable of instant dissemination. And in some cases, it can lead to serious political, social or economic destabilization.
“I know that many member states are working on a more structured legislation. We are working on a digital database to combat hate speech, fake news and so on. But as far as I know, it is not over yet, and we will discuss it after the summer recess,” the MEP summed up.