March 11 2024.
Ultimo aggiornamento: March 20 2024
European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová meets IDMO

The Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Values and Transparency is in Italy for her “Democracy Tour” with the goal of combating disinformation in the year of the European elections. The meeting with IDMO to promote transparency, fact-checking, and the defense of democracy

In the context of European initiatives to ensure transparent and manipulation-free elections, Věra Jourová, the Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Values and Transparency, has embarked on a “Democracy Tour” in Europe with the goal of strengthening collaboration between governments and the media sector. To assess the impact of disinformation in Italy and develop methods to counteract it, she visited the LUISS Guido Carli University to meet the team of the Italian Digital Media Observatory (IDMO).

Jourová also mentioned IDMO’s reports on the state of disinformation in Italy in an interview published in Corriere della Sera. The full interview is available here.

The role of IDMO in combating disinformation: Corriere della Sera’s interview with Věra Jourová

Why this tour?

“In a few months, there will be European elections and many national and regional consultations in the EU: I would like to have stronger cooperation with the Member States on the work to be done to protect democracy and elections. I will meet with the Ministers of the Interior and Defence because they involve foreign interference, media representatives, and NGOs. In Italy, I will see the Minister for European Affairs Fitto and the Undersecretary for Information Barachini. I want to inform them about the new risks that are coming because our enemies are illegally exploiting the digital space: Russia, but also China and Iran, which is fueling disinformation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the EU.”

What’s different from five years ago?

“The pressure on the electoral process was weaker. The great influence of artificial intelligence was not yet visible. And the method for influencing public opinion through disinformation was not so developed. The pandemic and the war in Ukraine are a watershed: they have increased even more the anxiety and uncertainty in our society, the fear and willingness to listen and believe in many conspiracy theories, but also the willingness of many to spread hate speech and extremism online. We seem to be in the middle of an information war. That’s why we need to increase the activities of those who do fact-checking, fight disinformation, and warn citizens against the abuse of technologies in election campaigning.”

What is the goal of your mission in Italy?

“I want Mr. Rossi or Mrs. Bianchi to have the utmost freedom of choice on whom to vote for. I do not come to countries to make propaganda. I am a liberal and somewhat left-wing, but that’s not my job here. I am here to talk with different bodies about how they are prepared for the waves of disinformation and the different manipulation techniques that may appear in election campaigns. There needs to be synergy between what the Commission does and what the competent bodies in the EU do. The issue is also related to protection from cyber attacks. That’s why I also have plans for talks on cybersecurity in EU countries.”

What is the situation in Italy?

“Propagandists have different strategies and different narratives prepared for each country. There have been very few common pan-European narratives. According to data collected by the Edmo (the independent observatory funded by the European Commission that brings together those who do fact-checking, editor’s note) in January out of a total of 222 articles verified, 6.7% of the fake news used content generated by AI against 4% at the European level. And in December, according to the IDMO, the Italian section of the Edmo, the main disinformation narratives focused on the war between Israel and Hamas for 15% against an EU average of 11%, 10% on the war against Ukraine, and 10.3% on pandemics. According to our survey, only a third of the people who read the news in Italy had access to a fact-checking, visibly labeled and verified.”

What do you expect for the coming months?

“Ukraine is the subject of disinformation especially in the Eastern countries, in Italy it is also the conflict in the Middle East. And in the coming months, immigration will return, because it will be at the center of the electoral campaign for the European elections.”

How to intervene?

“One thing must be said: fact-checking concerns the wrong facts to be corrected. Opinions must remain unchanged. And this is also the rule we have for Facebook and other major digital platforms, because we do not want them to work as correctors of someone’s opinions. It would be the end of freedom of speech. That’s why we strictly talk about facts.”