Understanding the EU’s Approach Countering Online Disinformation

CEI-IUL researcher Sofia Martins Geraldes participated yesterday in the International Conference UACES – University Association for Contemporary European Studies, with a paper entitled: “Living among Trolls, Bots, and Democracy: Understanding the EU’s Approach Countering Online Disinformation“.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest and effort to analyse the European Union’s role in the promotion of security in the cyberspace.

However, the research has focused on how the EU approaches threats that emerge from the use of cyberspace to disrupt and/or destroy critical information and communication infrastructures, whereas threats that emerge from the use of cyberspace to manipulate perceptions and behaviours is still understudied. In this context, the rise of network technologies such as social media emerges as particularly challenging.

Social media’s technological characteristics enable state and non-state actors to, through a low-cost, almost immediate and global way, manipulate societies’ minds in order to cause disruptive behaviour. These digital platforms have been used to promote old techniques, such as disinformation, in a more refined way, allowing the sophisticated development of what John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt (1993) named as “netwar(fare)”.

These challenges are particularly demanding for democratic institutions because they can involve certain actions that can collide with fundamental democratic values and principles, namely regarding the protection and promotion of human rights, such as data protection and freedom of expression.

Therefore, the aim of this research is to question whether the EU’s role in regulating online content, namely in countering online disinformation, does not undermine the protection and promotion of democracy’s fundamental values and principals, which is in its assumed role as a security provider.

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CEI-Iscte (Centre for International Studies) is a university-based multidisciplinary research center at ISCTE - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL). CEI-Iscte aims at promoting interdisciplinary research in Social Sciences, International Relations and Economy, focusing in its areas of geographic specialisation: Africa, Asia, Europe, and Transatlantic Relations.

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