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2019 Elections: Eurobarometer survey, citizens call for online security and controls. Timmermans, “protect democracy”

(Brussels) In order to address the risks linked to cyber attacks and interference in the forthcoming European Parliament elections, the vast majority (74-81%) of respondents interviewed by Eurobarometer “agree on the way to tackle these threats”: by “introducing more transparency to online social media platforms, including on clearly indicating who is behind online advertisement”; by “giving equal opportunities to all political parties to access online services to compete for voters’ attention”; by “giving a right to reply for candidates or political parties on social media”; and by “introducing the same silence period online as already exists for traditional media”. Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the European Commission, said: “Our research shows that people are really worried about disinformation. The good thing is that more and more citizens are critical of the information they are offered, and well aware of the dark forces that would like to manipulate what they read, think and ultimately vote for. For the legitimacy of our European democracy, it is essential that citizens use their right to vote. And that’s why we all, EU institutions and Member States, must protect our elections and bolster our democracy”.

In September, the European Commission presented a set of concrete measures “to make sure – a statement reads – that next year’s European Parliament elections are organised in a free, fair and secure manner. These measures “include greater transparency in online political advertisements and the possibility to impose sanctions for the illegal use of personal data in order to deliberately influence the outcome of the European elections”. The European Commission also set up a European electoral cooperation network, which will meet for the first time in January 2019. The European Commission is also taking measures to tackle disinformation. Major tech companies signed a code of good practices on disinformation last month that will “help provide more transparency on sponsored political advertising online”. The European Commission and the External Action Service “are currently finalising a common Action Plan on disinformation for a coordinated response at Union and Member State level to the threat of disinformation. This action Plan is to be adopted in the coming weeks”.

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