In January 2018, the European Commission set up a high-level group of experts («the HLEG») to advise on policy initiatives to counter fake news and disinformation spread online. The HLEG consisted of 39 members and was chaired by Prof. Dr. Madeleine de Cock Buning. Its members had different backgrounds, including academia and journalism, written press and broadcasting organizations, online platforms as well as civil society and fact-checking organizations. The HLEG’s tasks were to advise the Commission on all issues arising in the context of false information spread across traditional and social media and on possible ways to cope with its social and political consequences. The main deliverable of the HLEG was a report designed to review best practices in the light of fundamental principles, and suitable responses stemming from such principles.
The analysis presented in this Report starts from a shared understanding of disinformation as a phenomenon that goes well beyond the term «fake news». This term has been appropriated and used misleadingly by powerful actors to dismiss coverage that is simply found disagreeable. Disinformation as defined in this Report includes all forms of false, inaccurate, or misleading information designed, presented and promoted to intentionally cause public harm or for profit. It does not cover issues arising from the creation and dissemination online of illegal content (notably defamation, hate speech, incitement to violence), which are subject to regulatory remedies under EU or national laws. Nor does it cover other forms of deliberate but not misleading distortions of facts such a satire and parody.
Problems of disinformation are deeply intertwined with the development of digital media. They are driven by actors — state or non-state political actors, for-profit actors, media, citizens, individually or in groups — and by manipulative uses of communication infrastructures that have been harnessed to produce, circulate and amplify disinformation on a larger scale than previously, often in new ways that are still poorly mapped and understood.
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