Question for written answer to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Patrick Breyer (Verts/ALE)
Subject: Definition of disinformation used by EUvsDisinfo
The EUvsDisinfo database is focused on ‘messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages’. The Commission, however, understands disinformation to mean only verifiably false or misleading information that is created, presented and disseminated for economic gain or to intentionally deceive the public, and may cause public harm. Disinformation does not include reporting errors, satire and parody, or clearly identified partisan news and commentary (COM(2018)0236).
1. Why does the European External Action Service (EEAS) not apply the latter definition when labeling publications as ‘disinformation’ on its EUvsDisinfo website?
2. Information on the website suggests that the EEAS considers some value judgements (e.g. claiming that the EU is dead or predicting its demise) to be disinformation. Does the Commission agree with that stance?
3. The website also suggests that the EEAS considers speculation not supported by evidence, but which may still be true (e.g. that the Coronavirus might have been brought to Wuhan from outside China or produced in a laboratory), to be disinformation. Does the Commission take the same view?
Answer given by High Representative/Vice-President Borrellon behalf of the European Commission
The EU’s Action Plan Against Disinformation (2018)1 provides for a definition of disinformation. This definition informs the work of the Commission, including in relevant Council Conclusions2 and most recent Communication on tackling COVID-19 disinformation3, which build on existing terminology in response to evolving threats’ landscape and new forms of information manipulation. Combatting the flow of disinformation and misinformation is done in full respect of freedom of expression and other fundamental rights and democratic values.
The website EUvsDisinfo.eu is one of the awareness-raising instruments on harmful disinformation disseminated by from pro-Kremlin sources. It uses transparent criteria and clearly defines the scope of the disinformation covered, in accordance with the 2018 Action Plan and Council Conclusions. A particular focus of the EEAS’ work has been to detect patterns, approaches and strategies in disinformation activities and related products, enabling comprehensive analysis and exposure of disinformation campaigns. The website thus focusses on exposing the manipulative character of the referenced disinformation and on raising awareness on the threat, in this way contributing to resilience building in society and media.
This approach is particularly important in handling the COVID-19 crisis where so far hundreds of related disinformation cases have been detected and exposed, confirming the intentional and coordinated character of the related influence operations.