(Brussels) An “Action Plan to step up efforts to counter disinformation in Europe and beyond” – this is what the European Union has presented today in the run-up to the European elections in May 2019 and to a number of national and local elections that will be held in Member States after that date. The goal is to protect the EU democratic systems. The programme includes the creation of a “Rapid Alert System” and monitoring of the implementation of the “Code of Practice” signed by online platforms and social networks in September, with an increase in dedicated resources (€5 million). The Plan focuses on four areas: improving detection; coordinating responses; action by online platforms; and specific programmes to raise awareness and empower citizens. “We need to be united and join our forces to protect our democracies against disinformation”, said Commissioner Andrus Ansip, responsible for the Digital Single Market, who mentioned “attempts to interfere in elections” and “evidence pointing to Russia as a primary source of these campaigns”. A “collective effort” is needed to fight disinformation. “Healthy democracy relies on open, free and fair public debate”, said EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. “It’s our duty to protect this space and not allow anybody to spread disinformation that fuels hatred, division, and mistrust in democracy”.