Brussels – A top EU official tasked with fighting fake news has called for a European-wide response just days after French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled plans for laws to stop the phenomenon.
Bulgarian EU commissioner Mariya Gabriel was speaking after launching a task force of around 40 experts, including a representative from AFP, to draw up ways to address fake news in the internet age.
Her call comes amid increasing worry that Russia has devised misleading social media activity to promote disruptive political stances in the EU, such as Brexit, and influence national elections.
“We need a European approach to avoid any risk of fragmentation,” Gabriel told a news conference as the task force held its first meeting in Brussels.
“The proposal by President Macron clearly shows the political importance of the issue and shows at the same time… that any solution must be carefully thought through,” she added Monday.
Watchdog Reporters Without Borders, Google, Facebook, as well as media groups RTL, Mediaset and Sky were also participating in the workshop.
“False information is spreading today at a disturbing rate,” said Gabriel, a former member of the European Parliament.
“That is why we must develop mechanisms to identify false information and limit their circulation,” she said.
Criticism has poured in from media advocates and tech experts over Macron’s plan, announced this month, to introduce new legislation legislation to stop fake news spreading online in the run-up to elections.
Some fear legitimate expression will accidentally be caught in the crossfire, with government given too much power over controlling free speech.
The French plan follows a separate effort in Germany, where recent legislation puts social networks at risk of fines of up to 50 million euros ($60 million) if they do not remove fake news and hateful posts promptly.