The European Commission proposes measures to tackle disinformation online, including an EU-wide Code of Practice on Disinformation, support for an independent network of fact-checkers, and a series of actions to stimulate quality journalism and promote media literacy.

The large majority of EU citizens believe that fake news represents a danger to democracy. Respondents to Eurobarometer survey were particularly concerned by intentional disinformation aimed at influencing elections and immigration policies. The survey also emphasised the importance of quality media: respondents perceive traditional media as the most trusted source of news. Online sources of news and video hosting websites are the least trusted source of news. To address these concerns and trends, the Commission proposed a series of measures including a Code of Practice on Disinformation, an independent European network of fact-checkers, secure European online platform, enhancing media literacy, support for quality and diversified information and a coordinated Strategic Communication Policy.

As a very concrete step to be taken, in his opinion Olgierd Geblewicz calls for a pan-European debate to be launched on how local and regional authorities could better support the local press so as to ensure a healthy mixture of opinions while at the same time continuing to comply with the principles of the EU single market.

In Geblewicz’s views, the CoR is particularly well suited to take part in discussions on the threat of disinformation, and to initiate and coordinate measures to tackle this problem taken by local and regional authorities in Europe, in line with the widely accepted principle that the fight against disinformation must be rooted in cooperation among many different institutions.

On this regard, the opinion outlines three main areas where the CoR and local and regional authorities can show initiative and effectively support efforts to counteract current online disinformation. These are:

– civic education,

– support for non-governmental organisations and civil society,

– and support for local media.

“Disinformation affects society at all levels, including the local and regional level. Local and regional authorities, as the level of governance closest to citizens – and often responsible for primary and secondary education – are best able to launch educational programmes that teach how to make responsible use of online information sources and how to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources. The aim should be to ensure that media literacy and responsible use of online media will become part of school curricula – starting with primary schools.”

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