Human and digital rights organisations Access Now, Civil Liberties Union for Europe and European Digital Rights (EDRi) published a joint report on 18 October 2018 evaluating the European Commission’s online disinformation and propaganda initiatives.

The report encourages good policy development based on thorough research and evidence. The European Commission or Member States should not propose binding policies until evidence and accurate benchmarks have been identified.

“We urge the European Commission to restrain from issuing any binding policy simply because there’s not enough meaningful data to underpin evidence-based policy. Research is needed to evaluate the impact of online disinformation and propaganda on society, and develop measures according to the fact-based findings of that research. Any measures should respect freedom of expression and data protection”, said Éva Simon, Freedom of Expression and Privacy Advocacy Officer of Liberties.

“Any measure to tackle the complex topic of online disinformation must not be blindly reliant on automated means, artificial intelligence or similar emerging technologies without ensuring that the design, development and deployment of such technologies are individual centric and respect human rights”, said Fanny Hidvégi, European Policy Manager with Access Now.

The EU should move away from superficial solutions and propose practical, proportionate solutions to tackle the root causes of online disinformation and manipulation, such as the dominant data-hungry business models in the market, said Maryant Fernández Pérez, Senior Policy Advisor at European Digital Rights (EDRi).

The three organisations warn against some of the proposed solutions by the Commission. Example of such flawed solutions are institutionalised fact-checking, relying on blind faith in Artificial intelligence and emerging technologies, creating the “EU vs. Disinformation” campaign and limiting anonymity.

As a possible way forward, the report advocates for three more meaningful solutions:

  • Address the business model of online manipulation through appropriate data protection, privacy and competition laws.
  • Prevent the misuse of personal data in elections.
  • Increase media information and literacy.

With this analysis and these solutions, the report aims at feeding into the European Commission’s Action Plan on Disinformation that is expected to present by the end of the year.

To read all the recommendations download the full report here.