Europeans are now doing what Donald Trump is afraid to do: Accusing Russia directly for spreading fake news and interfering in the governments of western democracies. They also are taking concrete steps to combat what they say is a rising threat from Putin’s government. Hopefully Trump and Congress will follow their lead and actually do something to fight back against Russian interference in U.S. elections.
A new report from the European Commission blames Russia by name for what it calls Moscow’s “information warfare.” This is a new development as Europe tries to fight back against Putin and the Russian government for online disinformation campaigns that they consider a major threat to European security.
The draft of a report seen by Radio Free Europe states that “mass online disinformation campaigns are being widely used by a range of domestic and foreign actors to sow distrust and create societal tensions, with serious potential consequences for our security.”
“For example, Russian military doctrine explicitly recognizes information warfare as one of its domains,” the commission adds in the document published on April 26.
An earlier draft did not contain the part that directly names Russia. But the situation has increased in severity and the commission decided they must take more aggressive action. They said that European Union foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini and Digital Economy Commissioner Mariya Gabriel were reluctant to name one specific country in the document because they didn’t want to ruffle feathers. They wanted to only name individual countries in the document’s footnotes, according to informed sources.
But these two executives received pushback from other commissioners who insisted that Russia be referred to by name in the section about disinformation. This is because they have much documented evidence of “Russian meddling in foreign elections, Russian troll factories established to sow civil discourse, and cyberattacks.”
“The rise of disinformation and the gravity of the threat have sparked growing awareness and concerns in civil society, both in EU member states and internationally,” the report reads. “We were asked in 2015 to develop an action plan to address Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns, which resulted in establishing the East Stratcom Task Force.”
The goal of the new document is to establish what it calls “a European approach to tackle disinformation.” It adopts four principles: transparency, diversity of information, credibility of information, and inclusive solutions.
The proposals mentioned include “the creation of an independent European network of fact-checkers to establish common working methods, exchange best practices, achieve the broadest possible coverage across the EU, and participate in joint fact-checking and related activities.”
The commission will also launch “a secure European online platform on disinformation to support the independent European network of fact-checkers and relevant academic researchers.”
It said the platform should “offer cross-border data collection and analysis tools, as well as access to EU-wide open data, such as reliable independent statistical information. This will enable the network to act as trusted flaggers.”
The commission also pledged to promote media freedom, training for journalists, and new technologies for newsrooms.
The European Commission has taken an important step by naming Russia as the perpetrator of widespread disinformation campaigns and recognizing the threat this poses to democracy. They also have adopted a good plan to fight back against Russia.
It is past time that the Trump administration take similar steps to protect our country. If he doesn’t do anything to combat the Russian threat, then we need somebody as president who will fight back and protect our country.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.