DML Executive Summary: EU
Over the last several years the European Union has commissioned multiple studies on disinformation and digital media literacy, however, very few initiatives have actually been implemented in EU countries. Experts report that the lack of sustainable initiatives is due to a lack of budgetary commitment and lack of vision. Below is a high-level overview of the state of DML in the EU, with the data and sources being pulled from the attached spreadsheet.
- A survey conducted by TNS Political & Social at the request of the European Commission found that about one-half of the respondents report encountering fake news at least once per week. The highest proportions, each over 73%, were reported in Spain, Hungary, Croatia, Poland, France, Greece and Slovakia. The lowest proportions, each still over 50%, were Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Malta. The older generation (over 50) is more susceptible to misinformation with a lower than average ability to determine real news from fake news and remember already debunked false claims.
- Previous attempts to curb fake news in the EU have met with resistance due to a commitment to protect the freedom of speech. Failure to halt the free flow of information resulted in a rise in "fake news" as voters went to the polls in May 2019. Misinformation was prevalent on social media, including hate-filled messages about immigration and Islam. In December 2019, a pro-Indian network of over 265 websites in 65 countries was discovered. The purpose of the group seems to be disseminating propaganda against Pakistan.
DML Government Actions
- The EU is in the process of creating a Digital Media Observatory that will serve as a hub for researchers, academia, and fact-checkers to collaborate in order to fight disinformation in the EU. In addition, the European Commission launched a network of fact-checkers aimed at enhancing media literacy. With the assistance of the European Regulators Group for Audio-Visual Media Services (ERGA), this group will make recommendations for further action.
- Policymakers in the EU are studying the possibility of creating a dynamic media literacy curriculum for primary and secondary schools that will cover the five main competences for media literacy: access, analysis and evaluation, creation, reflection, and action/agency. A report prepared by NESET for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture in 2019 studied current practices in Europe and internationally regarding teaching media literacy education in schools, specifically addressing fake news and misinformation.
- Organizations working on a European level to fight disinformation in the media include the European Audiovisual Observatory and All Digital. The EAO provides market information on media outlets in Europe including key legal issues and trends in the industry. All Digital supports Europeans with insufficient digital media skills by participating in media literacy campaigns and providing training and advice.
- Other key players found work on an international level and include the Center for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom, Safer Internet Day, Global Editors Network, Cartooning for Peace, DIMELI4AC, Europa, NESET, and EAVI. Safer Internet Day, Cartooning for Peace, and DIMELI4AC focus on reaching children and teenagers. All other organizations are focused on the general public and professionals.
- Research identified two initiatives related to providing resources, one initiative related to developing policy, and two initiatives related to end-user engagement. Initiatives were focused on critical thinking, media use, creativity, and civic engagement. Two initiatives target professionals, one targets teens/older students, one targets the general public, and one targets policymakers.
- The European Media Coach initiative focuses on teens and older students by training teachers, youth workers, librarians, and other professionals in the challenges and opportunities of new media and new literacies. The initiative was successfully implemented in the Netherlands, achieving the goal of improving media literacy.
- Lack of budget and vision were a common theme among experts as main challenges in combating misinformation within the European Union. There have been numerous studies commissioned but very little action taken to implement initiatives.
- Experts believe that budgetary commitments are insufficient to battle the problem of disinformation and seem to reflect a lack of understanding of its potential threat on the part of decision makers.
The report can also be found in the attached Google document.