left

Online Disinformation in Europe: a study on ethical standards

Online Disinformation in Europe: a study on ethical standards

Online disinformation is increasingly entering the centre stage of public discourse.

This study sets to investigate whether there are in place measures and/or journalistic authorities that supervise and monitor the ethical application of journalism at a European level; identify patterns of false information spreading as a means to serve the agenda and interests of political groups, exploring who spreads such false information and who benefits from it; and analyse and summarize the specific and tangible policies that have been proposed by European and international organisations to tackle online disinformation in order to formulate a policy recommendation to the audience of the report.

Key findings include:

  • Among the three topics of focus for our study, disinformation was prevalent with respect to COVID-19 and immigration and much less pronounced with respect to climate change. At an EU and national level, we found evidence that COVID- 19 related disinformation more often originates or is disseminated by right-wing parties and politicians.
  • On the topic of immigration, we could identify several disinformation activities, featuring anti-immigrant narratives and sentiments, racist and xenophobic attitudes that were aligned with the agenda and ideology of far-right and right-wing parties.
  • Our analysis of existing recommendations highlights that the phenomenon of disinformation cannot be addressed with fragmented, one- dimensional or simply regulatory policies. It calls for a multi-dimensional, multi- faceted, multi-stakeholder policy framework that assigns fair responsibility to and requires decisive action from all relevant stakeholders.
  • The recommended policies are organized in the following six dimensions: a) enhancement of the transparency of the digital media ecosystem; b) cultivation of media literacy and digital skills in different groups of citizens; c) empowerment of different groups of stakeholders, including platform users, citizens, and journalists; d) strengthening media independence and pluralism; e) promotion of ethical conduct in media, journalism and platforms; and f) support of independent research on monitoring the disinformation phenomenon and building services and tools for countering online disinformation.