Disinformation has been an element of politics since politics began, with propaganda used by governments and their intelligence agencies to influence the political landscape both at home and abroad. But disinformation and misleading narratives have been, for the most part the privilege of those in power.
The rise of digital platforms has changed
this, and faster than society, laws and even politicians can keep up
with. Now minor (and often malevolent) actors and political fringe
groups have access to a far-reaching medium that can be used to
proliferate disinformation and stir resentments of all kind.
There are plausible arguments to link the rise of the Neo-nationalists in the US and across Europe with this new phenomenon.
The Investigate Europe team of journalists has spoken to more than
100 experts, scientists, politicians and social media platform staff to
find out how the disinformation engine works, who controls it, who uses
it and how public authorities and companies react to it. The result:
Europe is not sufficiently prepared to stop the disinformation machine.
This research shows:
- what methods the New Right uses to disseminate disinformation,
- that the marketing mechanisms of social media platforms offer ideal conditions for the New Right,
- that a specially created EU body to clarify disinformation is struggling with legitimacy and competence problems,
- that the national governments and the EU Commission will transfer control to the companies, namely Google, Facebook and Twitter, which will, however, earn money from the campaigns,
- that transparency standards for election advertising on the internet are not sufficient and, moreover, have so far only been partially implemented.
This article, by Nico Schmidt and Daphné Dupont-Nivet, was originally published by OpenDemocracy and is republished here under a Creative Commons licence. It shows how Google and Facebook put pressure on EU experts to soften European guidelines on online disinformation and fake news.
You can read the English version of a pre-news story that we published before the main publication, in an article by Nico Schmidt that originally appeared in Der Tagesspiegel and has been translated for this website. You will also find links to our media partners that have published the news in German, Dutch and Portuguese.