DML Executive Summary: Portugal

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DML Executive Summary: Portugal

The issue of misinformation and fake news has recently risen in Portugal during the latest elections in 2019. Facebook pages spread "fake news" on politicians and political parties. To tackle this issue, a resolution was passed in parliament to force the government to take measures in line with the EU's plan. As Portugal did not have a legislation in place, it transposed EU directives directly. Below is a high level overview of the current state of DML in Portugal, with data and sources from the attached document.

Misinformation / DML Prevalence

  • In March 2019, prior to elections taking place in Portugal, the Socialist Party called for a parliamentary debate on fake news and misinformation. A two-hour session was scheduled on the 6th of March under the title“Tackling misinformation to defend democracy”. The Portuguese parliament had yet to produce any legislation to tackle this issue.
  • Fake news and misinformation related to Portuguese politics are spread through Facebook groups based in Canada, attracting thousands of members. Some posts appearing on those sites portray Portuguese politicians as frauds, spreading false information about them owning luxury watches worth millions of euros.
  • Facebook pages that publish and spread fake news in Portugal can have as much as 1.3 million fans and are followed by groups of over 700,000 members. The most common themes of fake news and misinformation during election times in Portugal are corruption and racism.

DML Government Actions

  • In March 2019, members of the Portuguese parliament approved a draft resolution advising the government to undertake measures to tackle fake news, in alignment with the EU's plan. The aim of this resolution is to guarantee cybersafety prior to all incoming Portuguese elections at the regional, national, and European levels. Despite this vote, the parties were divided with the Socialist Party voting for the resolution, whilst the Social Democrats abstained and the Communists voted against the proposal. In April 2019, the government approved the parliament's resolution to take action against fake news and misinformation.
  • Since Portugal did not have any legislation in place dealing with misinformation, the government decided to transpose the EU audiovisual directive 2018/1808. This directive regulates broadcast television and online video platforms. José Magalhães, a member of the Portuguese parliament has called for investment in online media literacy and fact-checking digital platforms.
  • In 2018, the Portuguese Media Regulatory Authority (ERC) launched a series of online media literacy activities in schools around Lisbon and Porto for kids between the ages of 15 and 18. At the same time, the ERC organized public workshops in libraries teaching critical analysis of news and digital literacy.
  • DML Players

  • The role of the ERC is to regulate and supervise all entities that engage in media activities in Portugal on behalf of the government. Its regulatory council defines and implements regulations whilst its executive directorate is responsible for managing the services and its finances. ERC's advisory board provides assistance in defining the guidelines and its statutory auditing function makes sure that the organization is run in a legal and efficient way.
  • The Communication and Society Research Center (CECS) is mainly responsible for undertaking high-level research in media and communication, promoting communication as a means to develop inclusive communities, and contribute to improve society and culture.
  • The CECS is active in promoting media literacy, debating the role of the media's social responsibility and examining online communication practices.

DML Initiatives

  • The Portuguese Safer Internet Centre (PTSIC) is an initiative aimed at promoting a safer use of online resources for young people and children. The Centre organizes learning activities, awareness campaigns, and publishes assessments of its projects. The organization is the main organizer of the Safer Internet Day, a nationwide event created to raise awareness. PTSIC is involved in the promotion of hotline and helpline services through media campaigns and works with various stakeholders such as industry and police forces.
  • In October 2018, an Observatory on Media, Information and Literacy (MILOBS) was launched after six years of development. The goal of this non-profit initiative is to play a major role in improving media literacy in Portugal. MILOBS is both a resource center and an entity with the power to provide services such as consulting, training and materials production. The Observatory partners with the Portuguese Informal Group on Media Literacy and the UNESCO.

The Future of DML

  • In 2017, Portugal has launched an ambitious strategy for the future called INCode.2030 to promote digital development, with a strong focus on digital literacy, which involves youth digital education. Digital literacy in this case includes the ability to critically assess digital media content. Through this strategy, the country wants to develop digital competences to compete in the digital world.
  • The National Telemedia Council has conducted research on the training of teachers in the future. This training should specifically incorporate elements of media literacy and digital storytelling. The research also found that journalistic tools should be used in education to stimulate critical thinking. As digital technologies are currently widely used, it is crucial to train teachers and students in producing as well as consuming information from digital media in a conscious way.
The report can also be found in the attached Google document.