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EU steps up action against disinformation

MD Staff

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To protect its democratic systems and public debates and in view of the 2019 European elections as well as a number of national and local elections that will be held in Member States by 2020, the EU is presenting today an Action Plan to step up efforts to counter disinformation in Europe and beyond.

Taking stock of the progress made so far and following up on the call made by European leaders in June 2018 to protect the Union’s democratic systems, the European Commission and the High Representative are setting out concrete measures to tackle disinformation, including the creation of a Rapid Alert System and close monitoring of the implementation of the Code of Practice signed by the online platforms. The Action Plan also foresees an increase of resources devoted to the issue.

High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini said: “Healthy democracy relies on open, free and fair public debate. It’s our duty to protect this space and not allow anybody to spread disinformation that fuels hatred, division, and mistrust in democracy. As the European Union, we’ve decided to act together and reinforce our response, to promote our principles, to support the resilience of our societies, within our borders and in the neighbourhood. It’s the European way to respond to one of the main challenges of our times.” 

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President responsible for the Digital Single Market, said: “We need to be united and join our forces to protect our democracies against disinformation. We have seen attempts to interfere in elections and referenda, with evidence pointing to Russia as a primary source of these campaigns. To address these threats, we propose to improve coordination with Member States through a Rapid Alert System, reinforce our teams exposing disinformation, increase support for media and researchers, and ask online platforms to deliver on their commitments. Fighting disinformation requires a collective effort.”

Stepping up detection, response and awareness

The Action Plan – prepared in close cooperation also with Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová; Commissioner for Security Union Julian King and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel – focuses on four areas key to effectively build up the EU’s capabilities and strengthen cooperation between Member States and the EU:

Improved detection: Strategic Communication Task Forces and the EU Hybrid Fusion Cell in the European External Action Service (EEAS), as well as the EU delegations in the neighbourhood countries will be reinforced with significant additional specialised staff and data analysis tools. The EEAS’ strategic communication budget to address disinformation and raise awareness about its adverse impact is expected to more than double, from €1.9 million in 2018 to €5 million in 2019. EU Member States should complement these measures by reinforcing their own means to deal with disinformation.  

Coordinated response: A dedicated Rapid Alert System will be set up among the EU institutions and Member States to facilitate the sharing of data and assessments of disinformation campaigns and to provide alerts on disinformation threats in real time. The EU institutions and Member States will also focus on proactive and objective communication on Union values and policies.

Online platforms and industry:The signatories of the Code of Practice should swiftly and effectively implement the commitments made under the Code of Practice, focusing on actions that are urgent for the European elections in 2019. This includes in particular ensuring transparency of political advertising, stepping up efforts to close active fake accounts, labelling non-human interactions (messages spread automatically by ‘bots’) and cooperating with fact-checkers and academic researchers to detect disinformation campaigns and make fact-checked content more visible and widespread. The Commission, with the help of the European group of regulators in charge of audio-visual media services, will ensure a close and continuous monitoring of the implementation of the commitments.

Raising awareness and empowering citizens: In addition to targeted awareness campaigns, the EU institutions and Member States will promote media literacy through dedicated programmes. Support will be provided to national multidisciplinary teams of independent fact-checkers and researchers to detect and expose disinformation campaigns across social networks.

Finally, the Commission is today also reporting on the progress made in tackling online disinformation since the presentation of its Communication in April 2018.

Next steps

The European Commission and the High Representative will develop and implement the measures set out in the Action Plan, in close cooperation with Member States and the European Parliament.

With a view to the European elections, the Rapid Alert System will be set up by March 2019. This will be complemented by further strengthening relevant resources.

The signatories of the Code of Practice will have to provide the first implementation update to the Commission by the end of 2018, which the Commission will then publish in January 2019. Between January and May, the online platforms will have to report to the Commission on a monthly basis. The Commission will also carry out a comprehensive assessment of the implementation of the Code of Practice in its first 12 months. Should the implementation and the impact of the Code of Practice prove unsatisfactory, the Commission may propose further measures, including of a regulatory nature.

Background

The European Union has been actively tackling disinformation since 2015. Followinga decision of the European Council in March 2015, in order to “challenge Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns“, the East StratCom Task Forcein the European External Action Service (EEAS) was set up. The Task Force, together with the relevant Commission services, focuses on effectively communicating the EU’s policies towards its eastern neighbourhood; strengthening the overall media environment in the eastern neighbourhood, including providing support for media freedom and strengthening independent media; and improving the EU’s capacity to forecast, address and raise awareness of pro-Kremlin disinformation activities.

In 2016, the Joint Framework on countering hybrid threats was adopted, followed by the Joint Communication on increasing resilience and bolstering capabilities to address hybrid threats in 2018.

In April 2018, the Commission outlined a European approach and self-regulatory tools to tackle disinformation online, including an EU-wide Code of Practice against Disinformation, support for an independent network of fact-checkers, and tools to stimulate quality journal­ism. On 16 October, the Code of Practice was signed by Facebook, Google, Twitter and Mozilla as well as the trade association representing online platforms and trade associations representing the advertising industry and advertisers.

In his 2018 State of the Union Address, President Juncker also put forward a set of concrete measures to make sure that next year’s European Parliament elections are organised in a free, fair and secure manner. The measures include greater transparency in online political advertisements and the possibility to impose sanctions for the illegal use of personal data in order to deliberately influence the outcome of the European elections.

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Montenegrin political earthquake

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In mid-January, across Montenegro, one video clip caused a real political storm. For the first time it was seen how a businessman close to the government gives 97,000 euros to Slavoljub Stijepovic, former mayor of capital Podgorica and senior official of the rulling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), to fund the election campaign. It all happened ahead of the parliamentary elections in 2016. Dusko Knezevic, chairman of the Montenegro-based Atlas Group, meanwhile suspected of money laundering and other financial malversations, explained that this was just one in series of multi-million donations to the DPS of President Milo Djukanovic, during which time the DPS has never been out of power. This video clip was the first concreate confirmation of something that has long been an open secret in Montenegro.

Ten days after the release of the video Djukanovic confirmed that Knezevic was a donor, but not in the figures stated by Knezevic. The Prosecution Office needed three days to make a statement after Knezevic’s video, which shocked most of the public. Also, it was shocking how the Prosecution Office led the investigation. Thus, after the audio recording as part of the affair Atlas, the former Vice Governor of the Central Bank Velibor Milosevic was arrested expressly, because of the suspicion of being part of a criminal organization, for whose boss is marked Dusko Knezevic. Milosevic was detained for up to 30 days, due to possible influence on witnesses. On the other hand, the video from the beginning of the story was not a sufficient reason to treat Slavoljub Stijepovic in the same way. He was interviewed only 20 days after the appearance of the video, as a citizen. Unlike Velibor Milosevic, who was detained by the prosecutor with handcuffs and in front of television cameras, Stijepovic had the privilege to come to the Prosecutor’s office through the premises of the Ministry of Justice and to come out unnoticed.

The Prosecution Office decided to suspect Stijepovic for the criminal offense of Money Laundering by helping, but Prosecution Office in his case, as in the case of Velibor Milosevic, did not see a threat to the influence of witnesses or the need for detention. According to some media reports, Stijepovic took the guilty upon himself, which is why the Prosecution assessed that there was no need for the hearing of Milo Djukanovic, president of Democratric Party of Socialists and Montenegro. Stijepovic also reportedly told the Prosecution Office the names of DPS activists from the Zeta region who received money. More than 20 were heard in the Prosecutor’s Office, no detention was ordered.

Reaction

On the same day when he was charged with a criminal offense, Stijepovic  came to the session of the Presidency of the Democratic Party of Socialists, where “traditional centers of destruction”, media and other circles, were blamed for current affair, aimed at destabilizing the country. Milo Djukanovic, according to a tried-and-tested model, tried to show that behind this affair are centers of power from Russia. So his media machine was trying to show that Dusko Knezevic is in Moscow and that he work at the orders of the Russian intelligence services. However, it soon became clear that Dusko Knezevic is in London. In an interview with Al Jazeera Balkans in London, Dusko Knezevic presented new accusations against Milo Djukanovic. Dusko Knezevic stated that he has a lot of videos that shows how he personally gives money to Djukanovic. He keeps these videos for the finals of the affair, when he says, will completely reveal the criminal octopus of Milo Djukanovic.

This criminal affair encouraged people to action. Soon protests were organized. The first protests were held on February 2. The protest was organized by a group of citizens who claimed that they started “civil struggle” against the regime in Montenegro, and that behind them stands no organization. With whistles and sirens, the demonstrators scandalized the “Street of Freedom”, “Rise Up, People”, “We Want Justice”, after which they left 97 envelopes in front of the building of the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office, on which they wrote “1,000 Euros” on the one hand, and on the other some of the long-standing unsolved affairs that the Prosecution should solve. On Saturday, February 16th, second large gathering was held in the capital of Montenegro, where the demands to the Protesters Office were presented. From the protest gathering, held under the slogan “97,000 Resist”, urgent and irrevocable resignations were sought from the president of the state and the government, Milo Djukanovic and Dusko Markovic, Supreme State Prosecutor (VDT) Ivica Stankovic, Special State Prosecutor (SDT) Milivoje Katnic and Director of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (ASK) Sreten Radonjic. Since Dusko Knezevic has said that there is a part that is not corrupt in the Democratic Party of Socialists, the protestants decisively denied that. The current events with the new affair of Milo Djukanovic were also used by Albanians from the United States. A truck with the inscription “Meet the Montenegrin president – a man of organized crime in the year 2015” was parked near the White House, the Congress, the State Department, the Montenegrin and the EU Embassy in Washington. On the truck also stood the message “Stop the discrimination of Albanians in Montenegro”.

Conclusion

Montenegro, which is, a NATO member since July 2017 and a candidate for EU membership, is often accused of not doing enough to tackle organized crime and corruption. EU has demanded more concrete results in the fight against corruption at a high political level as one of the main conditions for its making progress towards joining the EU. The entire rule of Milo Djukanovic is marked by affairs, but what this sets out is the fact that Dusko Knezevic is an insider, a man who took part in many important tasks. In addition to his testimonies, Dusko Knezevic also presents video recordings as well as documents. What many analysts spoke and warned about long time ago, now is documented. This affair also clearly demonstrated that all institutions in Montenegro are under the control of Milo Djukanovic. Initially, the scandalous silence of the Prosecution Office after the outbreak of the affair, the subsequent refusal to execute detention measures for Stijepovic, but above all the absence of a hearing of Djukanovic despite the unquestionable evidence of his involvement in illegal work, is in favor of the long-held thesis that these institutions are an integral part of the regime. Judicial institutions do not even try to show that they are independent. There is no doubt that the affair initiated by Montenegrin businessman Dusko Knezevic seriously shaken Milo Djukanovic and his party. It is still early to predict how the affair will culminate because all the evidence Knezevic announces has not yet been published. However, this is clear indication that the West has decided to significantly weak Djukanovic. An attempt by the media machine of Mila Djukanovic to connect Dusko Knezevic with Russian intelligence services, is not accepted in the West. Dusko Knezevic clearly shows that he is doing all the attacks on Djukanovic from London, where he currently lives. The fact that some political parties that are close to the Western Embassies support street protests, which was not the case before, speaks enough. One of the reasons why Milo Djukanovic has been ruling for almost three decades is complete obedience to the West. However, Djukanovic did all the tasks that the West needed, the separation of Montenegro from Serbia, the recognition of Kosovo’s independence, and finally the violent entry of Montenegro into NATO. Now with his biography, which is full of affairs, he is only a burden to the West. In any case, this affair will either take Djukanovic out of power or send him a clear message that it is time for political retirement.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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German Poll Shows Germans Stunningly Anti-U.S.-Government

Eric Zuesse

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On February 8th, the NATO-supporting Atlantik-Bruecke, or Atlantic Bridge, issued their poll, “Vertrauen in der Krise” or “Trust During the Crisis”, and it finds, from scientifically sampling 2,500 Germans, that there is very little trust or confidence in U.S. leadership, and that there is less dis-trust both of Russian and of Chinese leadership than of American.

Atlantic Bridge was founded by NATO and the Council on Foreign Relations in 1952 in order to make Germans hostile toward the Soviet Union, and favorable toward the United States. It was the prototype for America’s Atlantic Council, which became founded in 1961 — the same year as Eisenhower’s Farewell Address warning against the rise of the “military-industrial complex.” It was created in order to propagandize for higher U.S. military spending to strengthen NATO. When the Cold War ended on the Russian side in 1991 with the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of communism and the end of the Warsaw Pact military alliance that had been set up by the U.S.S.R. in 1955 to defend the communist bloc against NATO, U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush secretly instructed America’s European vassal nations on the night of 24 February 1990 to continue secretly the war against Russia and any nation that isn’t hostile against Russia, and so NATO has swallowed up all of the Warsaw Pact nations, right up to Russia’s borders, and is now trying to merge into NATO a former part of the Soviet Union itself, Ukraine, after a U.S. coup in Ukraine in February 2014 installed a racist-fascist, ideologically nazi, anti-Russian regime at Russia’s doorstep.

Here are the new German poll’s main findings:

More than four-fifths of the respondents (84.6 percent) rate the German-American relationship as negative or very negative. Only 10.4 percent find it very positive or rather positive. A clear majority (57.6 percent) argues for a greater distance between Germany and the United States. Only 13.1 percent want a closer approach; 26 percent want to keep the current arrangement. …

Almost half of respondents (42.3 percent) consider China a better partner for Germany than the US. Conversely, only 23.1 percent believe that the US is a more reliable partner than China. …

[Concerning Germany’s current foreign policies,] only 18.6 percent see a positive impact, 34 percent a negative. …

Asked about the currently most dangerous global trouble spots, only 1.9 percent of the respondents named the expansion of the Russian zone of influence. The growing influence of China is seen by 2.2 percent as the biggest threat. …

Neoconservatives (that is to say, supporters of expanding the U.S. empire) are quoted as being alarmed by these findings:

Professor Burkhard Schwenker, Chairman, Roland Berger Advisory Council, Head of the Atlantic Bridge Working Group Foreign and Security Policy and Vice-Chairman: “In view of the great loss of confidence in the United States, we must engage more than ever in our discussions with and about America. and across the Atlantic, at all levels. That’s why the Atlantic Bridge is increasingly devoting itself to this exchange.”

Dr. David Deißner, Managing Director of Atlantik-Brücke, adds: “The current dissonances and the mood in Germany show that the common values and interests between the transatlantic partners have to be discussed openly, without fear of controversy.” …

Dr. Michael Werz, Senior Fellow, [U.S. Democratic Party] Center for American Progress, Member of the Board of Atlantik-Brücke, commented: “Germans must leave the comfort of neutrality behind and, despite all legitimate criticism of the current US administration [since he propagandizes for Democratic Party billionaires instead of for Republican Party billionaires who donate to the current U.S. President], not of anti American resentment, make clear the dangers posed by the authoritarian systems in Russia and China.”…

Dr. Norbert Röttgen MdB (CDU / CSU), Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag, Member of the Board of Atlantik-Brücke: “The survey shows that we need to convince the citizens of the strategic needs of a German engagement in a radically changing world. Without the backing of the population, foreign policy can not be pursued.”

Clearly, this poll’s stark findings shocked these propagandists for increased German purchases of weaponry from firms such as Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.

This poll shows that today’s German Government does not represent the German public — at least not on these central issues of German foreign and national-security policies. One may say the same thing about the U.S.: that its Government does not represent its public (on practically everything, actually).

The continuing ability of the U.S. regime to justify its many foreign invasions and coups as being humanitarian instead of what they always have been, which is raw grabs for extending the U.S. empire, is severely jeopardized when the approval of U.S. leadership declines among the publics in the lands that are ruled by aristocracies that (like Germany) are allied with and subordinate to America’s aristocracy — the 585 U.S. billionaires. This is especially  the case in Germany, which is currently occupied by thirty-two thousand U.S. troops.

On 2 July 2018, the U.S. ‘Defense’ Department’s newspaper, Stars and Stripes, headlined “Former Army Europe boss: Pulling US troops from Germany would be a big win for Russia”, as if Russia instead of America were doing “regime change” everywhere it can, and it opened: “A large military drawdown in Germany would be a ‘colossal mistake,’ says the former top Army commander in Europe about a possible scaling back of the U.S. presence on the Continent, at a time when Russia has become more assertive.” The article went on to say:

There are now about 32,000 permanently stationed American troops in Germany, which hosted the majority of the 300,000 troops stationed in Europe during the Cold War.

The Washington Post reported on Friday that the Pentagon is analyzing the cost and effects of returning some or all troops in Germany to the U.S. and possibly sending some to Poland instead. The review began after President Donald Trump, who is at odds with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on a range of issues, expressed interest in withdrawing U.S. forces.

So, the question naturally arises as to whether the German public support the U.S. President regarding this matter. The present writer has web-searched the combination “Rückzug der US-Truppen aus Deutschland” and “umfrage” (or “withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany” and “poll”) and failed to find any polling of Germans on that question. For some reason, this question — which should have been repeatedly and heavily and constantly polled among the German public — isn’t showing up as having been polled, at all, ever. What could possibly explain that mysterious situation? Why wasn’t the question included in the Atlantik Bruecke’s latest poll? Could it be that Germany’s master, the U.S. regime, simply hasn’t permitted that question to be polled in Germany? Or is there an alternative hypothesis that’s likelier? If so, what would that possibly be? Perhaps the people in power know already — or fear too much — that the German people want the American occupation of their country to end.

Here are two relevant headlines from the recent past:“‘Russia should be in G7, whether you like it or not’ – Trump says on way to summit” and, “G7 leaders urge Russia to stop undermining democracies”.

And here is the reality that all of the attendees at the G7 contradict and that is denied by the entire U.S.-NATO ‘argument’ — denied by their argument against Russia, and for the U.S. and its allies. They all simply hide this fundamental reality. But perhaps the German people are somehow coming finally to recognize that they’ve been deceived for a long time and need now to replace their current leaders (just as Americans do, and just as the people in all countries that are allied with the U.S. aristocracy do).

The extent of the lying on this has exceeded almost anyone’s expectations, but maybe the German people are coming, somehow, to recognize this ugly fact.

Have you read any of this in the mainstream press? It’s all news, but did you learn of it there? If not, why not?

Author’s note: first posted at strategic-culture.org

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China and US keep a close eye on Greenland

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Greenland is mulling independence. While enjoying wide autonomy within the Kingdom of Denmark with its own parliament since 2009,. Greenland still faces two serious economic problems standing on its way to full-fledged sovereignty, namely the need to make itself less dependent on financial assistance from Copenhagen ($620 million), and reduce its overdependence on revenues from shrimp and halibut fishing.

These two problems are closely intertwined. Greenland is a world leader in terms of per capita volume of marine resources, with 25 percent to 50 percent of its working-age population engaged in fish and seafood production, which account for at least 87 percent of the island’s exports, 89 percent of which go to Denmark.

Greenland’s lopsided economy is unable to fully ensure the islanders’ financial viability as almost half of the local government’s social expenses are subsidized by Denmark.

With the island’s foreign, defense and economic policy being steered by Copenhagen, the only way to diversify the local economy is to expand foreign economic activity and develop additional industries. The Greenlandic authorities believe that the involvement of foreign partners could help develop the local mining sector, but they are hamstrung by Denmark, which has a final say in choosing such partners.

The Greenlandic government in Nuuk (the capital of Greenland) sees the export of land resources as holding the economic key to the island’s future independence, with China viewed as the most promising partner willing to develop the local mining and transport sectors.

China sees itself as a “Near-Arctic State” and its experts believe that the emergence of an independent Greenland on the world map over the next decade is a likely prospect.

Nuuk and Beijing have reached an agreement on China upgrading the airports in Nuuk, Ilulissat and Qaqortoq and the development of the Kvanefjeld deposit with an estimated 200,000 tons of uranium ore.

However, this gives rise to a certain contradiction between the right to use land resources granted to Greenland by Copenhagen, and Denmark’s right to determine the island’s defense policy. Meanwhile, Nuuk and Copenhagen are trying to figure out whether proposed uranium mining and airport modernization by Chinese investors is economic or defense-related.

Greenland has a strategic importance as a source of rare earth metals and a gateway to the Arctic. Denmark remains an Arctic power as long as it owns Greenland. Therefore, in its effort to enlist US support, Copenhagen emphasizes that Greenland is part of the North American continent.

Greenland is built into Washington’s security architecture as an element of perimeter defense, which, besides Greenland proper, also includes Canada. Washington’s 1948 offer to buy Greenland for $100 million (declined by Denmark) underscores the island’s geopolitical significance for the United States.

Denmark’s sovereignty over Greenland ensures the security of the northeastern flank of the United States and Canada, while simultaneously allowing Canada to “break free” from US “encirclement,” which facilitates the US-Canadian dialogue on Arctic-related issues and strengthens Ottawa’s negotiating position. While officially favoring Denmark’s continued sovereignty over Greenland, Washington may still be mulling, albeit tacitly, the possibility of interacting with the authorities of the would-be independent Greenland. In the latter case, Washington hopes that, unable to establish full-fledged law enforcement agencies of its own, the local government in Nuuk would entrust its defense to the Pentagon.

Just like Iceland, whose defense capability is guaranteed by NATO, Greenland could eventually gravitate towards rapprochement with or even membership of NATO. This prospect will hardly sit well with Canada, which wants to expand its footprint in the Arctic and would hate to see the emergence of competitors building up ties with Greenland as a pretext for their presence in the region.

Advocates of Greenland’s independence favor the introduction of military conscription in the coast guard, rescue services and patrol units. However, even if, taking cue from Denmark where 0.43% of the population serves in the army, Greenland calls up a similar number of conscripts, its armed forces will still not exceed 250 people. Therefore, the lack of a defense-demographic potential is seen as a serious hurdle on the way to the island’s hypothetical independence.

That being said, the clock is still ticking in favor of Greenland’s eventual independence from Denmark, with global warming accelerating ice loss on the island, opening ice-free areas to potential mining projects.

Greenland is also important in terms of meteorological studies as the island’s climate impacts weather forecasting in Europe, the United States and Canada.

This means that foreign countries may want to use weather monitoring as well as the study of climate change and its impact on Arctic ecology, flora and fauna as a pretext for their presence on the island.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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