Foreign Interference: the European Parliament’s Response

Main takeaways:  

  • Propaganda and disinformation are not new phenomena, but 30 years ago there was not yet technology which allows them to be spread at such speed and with so little transparency.
  • Present-day disinformation and foreign interference present real threats to democratic societies.
  • A strong rules-based EU response is needed to even the playing field amongst different actors in the information space, including the technology companies.

On 8 June 2021 YPFP Brussels hosted an event with MEP Vladimír Bilčík (EPP) on foreign interference and the European Parliament response under Chatham House rules. The panel was moderated by YPFP Brussels Security and Defence Officer, Ville Majamaa.

The discussion opened with an overview by Mr Bilčík on the evolution of the disinformation landscape and the role of technology in shaping the threats European democracies are facing in in the information space.

The goal of the INGE committee is to outline a report on foreign interference and possible legislative and non-legislative actions, which will also have a focus on disinformation. A number of softer measures have already been taken to address this challenge, but more EU level legislative actions are in the pipeline. INGE committee is just one of the ways the EU is tackling this issue. The best response is a common European response. The INGE committee will continue to address these issues and will publish a communiqué on their findings towards the end of 2021. 

In the ensuing discussion Mr Bilčík touched on questions related to the vulnerabilities that democracies in particular have when dealing with disinformation and the appropriate legislative and non-legislative tools that should be put in place to counter this. One of the discussion points was on the role of the global technology giants play in managing information and the extent of public oversight over them. The new rules the EU will establish, have the potential to become a new global standard. An example of this is the GDPR regulation, which was a move in the right direction regarding the data protection angle of new technologies. In parallel, education plays an important role in making societies more resilient when it comes to disinformation. Since education is not an EU competence, the Member States can invest in more education and improvement of their citizens’ skills, such as media literacy to address the disinformation threat.

Written by Ville Majamaa, Security and Defence Officer, Security and Defence Program, YPFP Brussels.