BRUSSELS • The European Union yesterday launched a system for member countries to alert one another to online disinformation spread by opponents such as Russia to undermine next year's key elections.
The bloc also urged Facebook and other social media platforms to follow through on pledges to ensure transparent political advertising, close fake accounts, flag "bots" and cooperate with fact-checkers.
"We need to be united and join forces to protect our democracies against disinformation," said Mr Andrus Ansip, the EU's vice-president for the digital single market.
The European Union said it was taking steps to protect democracies and public debate ahead of elections in May to the European Parliament as well as before elections in member countries through 2020.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation EU, called for a system in which EU bodies and member states alert one another about disinformation in real time, to be set up in March.
The system will share data and analysis on propaganda campaigns and promote what the bloc says will be objective communications about its values and policies.
The plan will boost the Commission's budget to tackle disinformation and raise awareness from €1.9 million (S$3 million) to €5 million next year. This will allow for an increase in staff and equipment in Brussels and among EU delegations to third countries.
The commission asked Facebook, Google, Twitter and Mozilla, as well as online and advertising trade associations to "swiftly and effectively" act on pledges made last month to fight disinformation. It said the tech firms and industry associations must update the commission on their efforts before the year ends.
"Healthy democracy relies on open, free and fair public debate," said the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. "It's our duty to protect this space and not allow anybody to spread disinformation that fuels hatred, division and mistrust in democracy."