EU leaders call for urgent action against disinformation

European Union leaders called for urgent action to combat fake news on the Internet at a summit on Friday, saying more needed to be done to safeguard next year’s EU election against disinformation.

The bloc’s 28 heads of state backed a plan to help stop what the United States, NATO and the EU say are Russian attempts to undermine Western democracies with disinformation campaigns that sow division. Russia has repeatedly denied any such action.

The plan calls for an early warning system to alert governments and tech giants such as Facebook and Google to do more to remove misleading or illegal content.

“Swift and decisive action at both European and national level” is needed to ensure fair elections to the European Parliament in May 2019, the EU summit’s conclusions said.

“The spread of deliberate, large-scale, and systematic disinformation, including as part of hybrid warfare, is an acute and strategic challenge for our democratic systems,” the statement said. “It requires an urgent response.”

The EU executive’s plan, endorsed by governments, will hand more money and power to regulators in Brussels to monitor and flag Russian disinformation. It increases funds for the foreign service EEAS for this to 5 million euros ($5.7 million) from 1.9 million in 2018.

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