European action plan against disinformation well received in Estonia

Flag of the European Union and related institutions next to the Estonian flag.
Flag of the European Union and related institutions next to the Estonian flag. Source: ERR

Estonia has welcomed a European Commission action plan setting up a rapid alert system which tracks election influencing online. Implicit in the initiative is combatting disinformation, particularly that emanating from or at the behest of the Russian Federation.

"The action plan is important, since it demonstrates that democratic societies share a common desire to take concrete steps against the spread of disinformation,'' Rein Tammsaar, Estonian representative to the EU's Political and Security Committee (PSC) told news agency the Baltic News Service.

''This is a part of a wider common approach from the EU which seeks to improve cooperation between member states and institutions and their exchange of information, as well as to encourage civil society to step up against disinformation," Mr Tammsaar went on.

Growing area

The action plan, made public on Wednesday, focuses on improved detection of disinformation, coordinated responses and raising citizens' awareness of the issue. The program also aims to tackle the spread of false information online, and also to increase the transparency of campaign advertising.

"Effective investigative journalism, based on facts as well as people's ability to check those facts is crucial in tackling disinformation. In situations where disinformation is disseminated at state-level in order to polarize societies, we need a common approach across the whole EU. A clear understanding is required of who is spreading the disinformation and for what purpose, as well as their activity, must be brought to light," Mr Tammsaar continued.

The European Commission's action plan also proposes more than doubling the European External Action Service East StratCom task force budget, from €1.9 million to €5 million next year. The task force was set up to address Russia's ongoing disinformation campaigns.

"The East StratCom Task Force has since 2015 been doing a determined and effective good job at revealing disinformation originating from the Russian Federation; it has also supported our eastern partners in building their communication skills," Mr Tammsaar said, adding that this makes even more pressing Estonia's support for the initiative.

The European Commission announced on Wednesday that the action plan will protect democratic systems and public debates, particularly surrounding the 2019 European Parliamentary elections in May as well several national and local elections to be held in member states to 2020. Estonia's general election is on 3 March 2019.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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