Monday 30 November 2020

Minister under pressure over EU fake news debunkers, MPs call for abolition

Photo: Government.nl

A majority of Dutch MPs want home affairs minister Kasja Ollongren to put pressure on Brussels to disband its fake news debunking service EU vs Disinfo.

A parliamentary motion, drawn up by the ruling VVD and the Socialists, says the service is missing its target and interfering with the free Dutch press. The anti-EU PVV, GroenLinks and fundamentalist Protestant SGP also support the plan, which will be voted on in parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

EU vs Disinfo is currently the subject of a court case involving three Dutch publishing companies after they were branded spreaders of fake news.

Shock blog GeenStijl, populist website The Post Online and De Persgroep want the Commission’s anti-disinformation task force to rectify claims that they spread fake news, or face a fine of €20,000 a day.

EU vs Disinfo is part of the EU’s external action service East Stratcom Task Force, which falls under the responsibility of foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and was set up to challenge Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns in March 2015.

After their initial legal protests, GeenStijl and The Post Online are no longer listed on the website as distributors of fake news but are demanding a formal rectification.

MH17

Persgroep paper De Gelderlander is included on the website for an article about the Buk rocket used to bring down flight MH17. The case will be heard in Amsterdam on March 14.

Ollongren told an NOS television programme on Monday night that the service is currently on the wrong track. ‘We need to think about what a useful addition would be,’ she said. ‘They [the EU officials] should not be taking the place of independent journalism.’

Nevertheless, the organisation has a useful role in the fight against fake news, the minister said.

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