Defining disinformation in the EU: a matter beyond linguistics

Miguel Pereira (Master’s student in European Union Law at the School of Law of the University of Minho)

The EU has been a trailblazer in what regards combating disinformation. Through initiatives involving online platforms and drafting of long-term strategies tackling multiple fronts, it has recognized the issue and attempted to address it through non-regulatory policy making. The instruments that have been put forth to combat the phenomenon are often controversial (as is to be expected in all discussions impacting freedom of expression and information) and their effectiveness hard to assess. The debate surrounding these instruments tends to absorb most of the attention, leaving less room to discuss the actual definition of disinformation. This concept is, nonetheless, vital to the successful implementation of policies in this area and to an adequate protection of fundamental rights in the EU, meriting a closer look.

Disinformation is often wrongly equated to, and used interchangeably with, “fake news”. This approach muddles the debate with imprecision and can be particularly pernicious for two reasons. On one side, it does not adequately capture the full scope of the problem which goes well beyond fake news reporting and includes a wide array of:

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Digital publications and protection of constitutional democracy

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 by Ana Aba Catoira, Professor of Constitutional Law, Universidade da Coruña


The strong impact that the irruption of digital channels has had on freedom of expression has led them to a reformulation process, because, as Lessig pointed out, “specifically the Internet has helped to show the true meaning of freedom of expression.” This profound transformation translates into a “paradigm shift” or change in the classical conception of the rights of information evident in the sender-receiver relationship of information, since all people are now active subjects in the new communicative process.

The prominence of the Internet and, more specifically, of social networks has been fundamental for the propagation of new “informative” practices that count on the invaluable help of artificial intelligence. This reality, already indicated as “information disorders”, was characterized by false news, post-truth, bots and other phenomena that distort the right to give and receive truthful information and intoxicate public opinion that is no longer free.
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