EUvsDisinfo website: should fact-checking be performed by political institutions or by non-partisan organisations?

EUvsDisinfo website: should fact-checking be performed by political institutions or by non-partisan organisations?

On 16 September 2020, German Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Patrick Breyer of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance posed a written parliamentary question to the Vice-President of the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell:

“The International Fact-Checking Network’s code of principles require a committment to non-partisanship, meaning that applicants may not ‘advocate for or against any policy positions’. Yet the EEAS East StratCom Task Force that operates the EUvsDisinfo website is tasked with ‘promoting the European Union’s policies’.

Does the VP/HR believe fact-checking should be performed by political institutions?”

On 2 February 2021, High Representative and Vice-President Borrell responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “EUvsDisinfo is not a fact-checker, but an awareness raising campaign that documents, exposes and analyses pro-Kremlin disinformation campaigns. It is managed by the European External Action Service (EEAS/East Stratcom Task Force) with an explicit mandate from the European Council (2015) to challenge Russia’s disinformation campaigns. This work is in complementarity to the Commission’s wider strategic communication activities in the Eastern Neighbourhood and the work done to support independent media. Analysis and information presented on the EUvsDisinfo website and its public database of disinformation cases is based on open sources and open for public scrutiny.

Independent fact-checkers, like the organisations in the International Fact-Checking Network, play a key role in challenging misinformation and disinformation, and are by definition non-partisan. In line with the action plan Against Disinformation, the European Digital Media Observatory was set up in June 2020 to support the work of an independent multidisciplinary community of researchers, fact-checkers and other relevant stakeholders, aiming to contribute to increased resilience and a better understanding of the challenge posed by disinformation.

The EEAS and the Commission will continue to work on countering disinformation and on strengthening transparency and accountability of online platforms, while preserving fundamental rights, in line with the EU Charter, and the right to an efficient complaints and redress mechanism. As announced in the European Democracy Action Plan, based on the guidance issued by the Commission, the strengthened Code of Practice on disinformation will also step up fact-checking by e stablishing transparent standards and procedures for open and non-discriminatory collaboration between fact-checkers and platforms.”


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