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European Commission To Call Out Russia For 'Information Warfare'


BRUSSELS -- The European Commission is set to single out Russia directly for what it calls Moscow's "information warfare" as part of EU efforts to fight back against online disinformation campaigns considered a threat to European security.

The draft of a communique seen by RFE/RL states that "mass online disinformation campaigns are being widely used by a range of domestic and foreign actors to sow distrust and create societal tensions, with serious potential consequences for our security."

"For example, Russian military doctrine explicitly recognizes information warfare as one of its domains," the commission adds in the document, set to be published on April 26.

Several sources familiar with the draft process told RFE/RL that an earlier draft did not contain the part that directly names Russia.

The sources, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak on the record, said EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini and Digital Economy Commissioner Mariya Gabriel were reluctant to single out a specific country in the document.

They preferred, instead, that individual countries be named only in the document's footnotes, the sources said.

However, several other commissioners insisted that Russia be cited in the section about disinformation, given the many reports of Moscow's alleged meddling in foreign elections, Russian troll factories established to sow civil discourse, and cyberattacks.

A March report on disinformation sponsored by the European Commission did not mention countries by name.

The commission's draft document also cites Russia when describing the EU task force set up three years ago to address disinformation.

"The rise of disinformation and the gravity of the threat have sparked growing awareness and concerns in civil society, both in EU member states and internationally," it reads, adding, "In March 2015, the European Council invited the high representative to develop an action plan to address Russia's ongoing disinformation campaigns, which resulted in establishing East Stratcom Task Force, fully effective as planned since September 2015."

The upcoming document aims to establish what it calls "a European approach to tackle disinformation."

It focuses on four key principles: improved transparency, promotion of diversity of information, fostering of credibility of information, and finding inclusive solutions.

The proposals mentioned include "the creation of an independent European network of fact-checkers to establish common working methods, exchange best practices, achieve the broadest possible coverage across the EU, and participate in joint fact-checking and related activities."

The commission will also launch "a secure European online platform on disinformation to support the independent European network of fact-checkers and relevant academic researchers."

It said the platform should "offer cross-border data collection and analysis tools, as well as access to EU-wide open data, such as reliable independent statistical information. This will enable the network to act as trusted flaggers."

The commission also pledged to look into funding to promote media freedom, training for journalists, new technologies for newsrooms, and to report on progress made on all points by December 2018.

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