The European Parliament just presented a sheet on “Online disinformation and the EU’s response”. It’s as useless as you expected
— IMCO Committee Press (@EP_SingleMarket) April 24, 2018
On 23 April, the European Parliament think tank published an ‘At a Glance‘ information sheet (PDF) on Online disinformation and the EU’s response. And, as one has come to expect whenever the EU tries to be an authority on fake news and disinformation, it’s pretty bad.
This is a think tank. So one would assume some actual thinking went into this publication. Instead, we are presented with a document that either states the obvious, states things like they are obvious, when it should argue them, or adds ‘supporting links’ to the text that do not actually support the narrative. Case in point: the sheet says that:
“When designed to deceive users for political purposes, digital gossip falls under ‘disinformation‘ – the dissemination of deliberately false information which non-state and state actors can use to undermine adversaries. The Kremlin continues its disinformation campaigns in its ongoing hybrid war against Ukraine, and is applying them in its ‘holistic‘ information warfare against the West.“
The links added in the quote are the links provided in the document. One would assume, that these links are cited to provide either background information to the claims made, or an explanation of terms. The link under ‘disinformation‘ indeed provided an earlier ‘At a Glance‘, explaining the difference between propaganda, disinformation and misinformation. ‘Gossip‘ links to a UNESCO page about ‘developing a critical mind against fake news‘, though it does talk about gossip. But the accusation against the Kremlin, that it is continuing ‘disinformation campaigns‘ is supported by a ‘Cover Note‘ by the General Secretariat of the European Council, of which the only relevant passage reads:
“The European Council stressed the need to challenge Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns and invited the High Representative, in cooperation with Member States and EU institutions, to prepare by June an action plan on strategic communication. The establishment of a communication team is a first step in this regard.“
In short: circular reasoning in action. ‘Hybid war’ links to an interesting report (PDF) of about a 100 pages, which concludes that
“one can only agree with the Swedish Defence Research Agency analysts cited earlier that one should not overestimate the capabilities of the Russian military based solely on the Crimean operation, because Ukraine constituted a near-ideal target for this new form of Russian warfare. In fact, hybrid war is built on exploring and capitalizing on the inherent structural weaknesses of the target country. Corruption is a key element of infiltration into the target country’s political, administrative, economic, defence, police, secret service, social and media structures. Impoverished, badly governed states, where the respect for democracy and human rights is weak and where ethnic and social tensions are present, are particularly vulnerable to a hybrid offensive.“
‘Holistic‘ leads to a NATO report by Keir Giles about the theory of Russian information warfare, which is, however, marred by mostly using news sources as ‘proof’ of Russian information warfare against Western Europe.
But that’s not where the fun stops. The ‘At a Glance‘ is a source of disinformation, or at least misinformation itself, when it writes that:
“In March 2018, the Dutch parliament called for the East StratCom Task Force’s website EUvsDisinfo to close down because it had wrongly listed articles published by Dutch media in its collection of cases conveying a ‘partial, distorted or false view or interpretation and/or spreading key pro-Kremlin messaging’. The task force has removed the articles, and the case has been withdrawn. Also in March, a complaint was filed with the EU Ombudsman, alleging that the Disinformation Review violates the freedom of expression.“
“interferes with the Free Press in the Netherlands, and has meanwhile wrongly accused three Dutch publications of being fake news; considering that it is not the task of government institutions, be they national, European, or otherwise, to accuse publications of the Free Press as fake news,(…)“
Dutch Parliament gave the wrongly listed articles as an example: but the reason it called for its closure, is because what EUvsDisinfo does is irreconcilable with freedom of the press and a lack of censorship. One would expect a European think tank to at least not add to the amount of misinformation it is trying to fight. But then again, the
disinformation sheet is busily engaged with defending the EU’s actions. It follows up its wrongful reporting on the debate in Dutch parliament by stating:
“However, there seems to be overwhelming support for the East StratCom Task Force from experts in the field. Keir Giles(Chatham House) has called East StratCom ‘critically important’ for responding to threats to democracy and our institutions, adding that the team is ‘scandalously under-resourced and under-empowered’.“
To which the only proper response would be: there’s the door, and see your experts out. Dutch parliament is a democratic institution, and it has, and rightfully so, argued that no team of unelected ‘experts’ should have the right to decide what is ‘news’ or ‘fake news’. Going against a democratic institution, in the name of defending democratic institutions. It’s the sort of idiocy one could only find in Brussels.