The European Parliament is reporting that its Special Committee on Foreign Interference (INGE) has concluded its inquiry and recommends building a sanctions regime against disinformation. According to a European Parliament press release:
January 25, 2022 On Tuesday, MEPs finalised 18 months of inquiry by the Special Committee on Foreign Interference (INGE) and adopted its final recommendations. The European public and government officials are “overwhelmingly” unaware of the severity of the threat posed by foreign autocratic regimes, in particular Russia and China, MEPs say in the text. Insufficient defence made it easier for malicious actors to take over critical infrastructure, carry out cyber-attacks, recruit former senior politicians and propagate polarisation in the public debate. This is exacerbated by loopholes in legislation and not enough coordination between EU countries. Counteraction To counter the threats, INGE members urge the EU to raise public awareness through training for people in sensitive functions and general information campaigns. In addition, the EU should beef up its capabilities and build a sanctions regime against disinformation. Rules on social media platforms, which serve as vehicles for foreign interference, have to be tightened, too.
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In addition, the EU committee recommended the following policies to counter disinformation, according to the press release:
- support broadly distributed, pluralistic media and fact-checkers;
- make online platforms invest in language skills to be able to act on illegal and harmful content in all EU languages;
- treat digital election infrastructure as critical;
- provide financing alternatives to Chinese foreign direct investment used as a geopolitical tool;
- clarify “highly inappropriate” relations between certain European political parties and Russia;
- ban foreign funding of European political parties;
- urgently improve cybersecurity, classify and register surveillance software such as Pegasus as illegal and ban their use;
- make it harder for foreign actors to recruit former top politicians too soon after they have left their job.
The Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union, including Disinformation (INGE), was set up in June 2020. After roughly 50 hearings with around 130 experts, the committee’s one-and-a-half-year mandate lapses at the end of March.
In November, the Global Influence Operations Monitor reported on a draft report by INGE which accused Russia and China of being “particularly active in the field of elite capture and co-optation” and identified several former high-ranking European politicians as Russian and Chinese influence agents, including several former prime ministers and ministers.
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