Disinformation – The monitoring of state actors

Disinformation – The monitoring of state actors

Iran’s Press TV, which represents the regime’s English-language propaganda, has been pushing anti-Semitic conspiracies about the coronavirus to distract from the mullah regime’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Nicola Beer posed a question to the European Commission requesting answers regarding Iran’s anti-Semitic conspiracies and disinformation campaign about coronavirus.

On 30 April 2020, the Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament held a debate with the EU High Representative and Commission Vice President Josep Borrell on the report by the European External Action Service on disinformation activities related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report reveals a significant number of coordinated disinformation campaigns by the Russian and Chinese governments to spread false health information and conspiracy theories in and around Europe.

Recent press reports also describe Iran’s disinformation campaign related to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of which is anti-Semitic in content including the feature by several news hubs regarding a coronavirus-themed cartoon contest sponsored by Iran’s Health Ministry, which featured some highly anti-Semitic work.

As the EU Action Plan on Disinformation seeks to improve detection, analysis and exposure of online disinformation, German Representative in the European Parliament Nicola Beer  filed a parliamentary question. In her question she asked “how is the Commission monitoring Iran’s online disinformation activities?” and “if it is not doing so, why not?”

MEP Beer further asked two further pointed questions: “how does the Commission seek to raise awareness of the anti-Semitism in Iran`s ongoing disinformation activities and promotion of conspiracy theories?” and “what measures have been taken in cooperation with other European institutions and their working groups to counter Iran’s anti-Semitic narrative, and what further measures are possible?’

“The European External Action Service (EEAS) has a clear and explicit mandate to monitor, analyse and report on disinformation from foreign actors. Some Commission services, including the Joint Research Centre, perform and support monitoring and analysis of disinformation more generally,” stated High Representative/Vice-President Borrell on behalf of the European Commission in his answer on 04 August 2020.

Mr Borrell further reported, “in this context, the Stratcom Task Force South of the EEAS, which covers the EU’s Southern neighbourhood including Iran, stepped up its work – using data analysis and media monitoring – to detect and analyse disinformation spread in this region”.

He also responded that “the EUvsDisinfo website publishes analyses and reports on foreign disinformation campaigns and hosts a public database containing more than 8500 disinformation cases”.

Mr Borrell went on to emphasize that “the latest EEAS special public report on disinformation around COVID-19 pandemic reported on the Facebook’s decision to take down a network of accounts emanating from Iran due to ‘inauthentic coordinated behaviour’”.

Finally, Mr Borrell reassured MEP Beer that the EU and its institutions regularly condemn and expose publicly anti-Semitic narratives or threats to Israel, including on the occasion of a recent statement of Iran’s Supreme Leader.

State generated disinformation remains a serious issue across the globe and it is essential that the European Commission continues its monitoring of all media channels to fully inform European citizens of the truth. Equally, the Commission must condemn countries such as China, Russia and Iran for their disinformation campaigns, especially in the context of  the dissemination of false health information and when they contain anti-Semitic hate speech. 

Photo Credit : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Iran

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