The European Union is failing to counter Russia’s "extremely successful” disinformation campaigns, the European Commission’s security chief warned Wednesday.
Julian King told members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg they had identified 3,500 examples of “pro-Kremlin disinformation contradicting publicly-available facts.”
“There seems, frankly, little doubt, that the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign is an orchestrated strategy – delivering the same disinformation stories in as many languages as possible, through as many channels as possible, as often as possible,” King said.
“If we look at opinion polls measuring how many people accept obviously disinformation planted in pro-Kremlin media, then unfortunately we have to conclude that Russian disinformation can be extremely successful.”
He added: “So that’s why we need to redouble our efforts to debunk this propaganda.”
The E.U. launched the East Stratcom task force to promote its values and counter Russian messaging in the east of the bloc in September 2015.
But MEPs said the 14-person communication team was struggling to counteract the Kremlin’s powerful propaganda outlets such as Russia Today or Sputnik, and called for the bloc to do more to boost media literacy, crack down on hate speech, regulate social media and support journalism.
“I am convinced that quality journalism should be supported by the governments, including the E.U., because otherwise it will disappear and leave us at the mercy of the Kremlin and other trolls who have learned how to play the social media game, said Latvian MEP Sandra Kalniete, vice-chair of the European People’s Party.
MEPs cited recent elections in the U.K., France, Spain and Germany as targets of Moscow’s campaign. “Let’s not kid ourselves, Russian meddling in democratic elections is no longer the exception, it is becoming the norm,” said Danish MEP Jeppe Kofod, issuing a warning about forthcoming elections for the European Parliament in 2019.
“Next year the citizens of Europe will elect a new European Parliament. This raises an uncomfortable question: how many seats will Russia get?”
The European Union is increasing its efforts to tackle the problem. On Monday, an expert group assembled to fight fake news had its first meeting, with the goal of helping formulate an E.U. strategy by April.