Insights European Parliament Committee says EU needs to build sanctions regime against disinformation


Last week the EU Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference adopted its final recommendations following an 18-month inquiry.

The Committee found that the European public and government officials are “overwhelmingly” unaware of the severity of the threat posed by foreign autocratic regimes, in particular Russia and China. Insufficient defence made it easier for malicious actors to take over critical infrastructure, carry out cyber-attacks, recruit former senior politicians and propagate polarisation in the public debate. This is exacerbated by loopholes in legislation and not enough coordination between EU countries, the Committee said.

To counter the threats, the Committee urges the EU to raise public awareness through training and general information campaigns. In addition, the EU should beef up its capabilities and build a sanctions regime against disinformation. Rules on social media platforms, which serve as vehicles for foreign interference, must be tightened as well.

The Committee’s recommendations include:

  • broader distribution of support, pluralistic media and fact-checkers;
  • making online platforms invest in language skills to be able to act on illegal and harmful content in all EU languages;
  • treating digital election infrastructure as critical; and
  • urgently improving cybersecurity, classifying and registering surveillance software such as Pegasus as illegal and banning its use.

Rapporteur Sandra Kalniete (EPP, LV) said: “Our investigations have yielded highly disturbing evidence of how malicious foreign actors attack our democracies across every possible sphere and domain of society. … Urgent measures are needed to address critical loopholes: hold online platforms to account and ensure the transparency of their algorithms, regulate the data market, strengthen civil society and independent media, and allow informed individual responsibility through education, training and media literacy programmes”.

The full Parliament is set to vote on the recommendations at its March 2022 session. To read the EU Parliament’s press release in full and for a link to the Committee’s report, click here.