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Europe on lookout for external meddling as election looms

(China Daily) -- European Union experts and major technology companies are closely watching campaigning ahead of EU Parliament elections in light of claims that online meddling may have swung the United Kingdom’s 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2016 United States presidential election.
So far, the observers have not seen a repeat of those online attempts to subvert the democratic process during the campaign that will culminate with voting between Thursday and Sunday.
Giles Portman, who heads the EU’s East Stratcom Task Force, told BBC Trending: “The evidence is being compiled for several years now that Russia has been seeking to influence European democratic processes.
Attempts have been made to hack and leak, or to denigrate particular politicians, or to misrepresent certain policies. The best way (for Russia) to strengthen itself is to weaken its opponent.”

People walk past a screen displaying an advertisement for the EU Elections at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.

Russia has also been blamed for engineering a swing to the right in the 2017 German Parliament elections, and for attempting to sway the 2017 presidential elections in France.
Russia has always denied engaging in online meddling in foreign elections and referendums.
The EU established Portman’s task force in 2015 to identify and expose attempts by outside forces to mislead or confuse EU citizens. The task force has mainly focused on Russia, which the European Commission claims spends up to 1.1 billion euros (US$1.2 billion) on pro-Kremlin media activities.
Portman said his team has dealt with some misinformation during the European Parliament election campaign but that it has not been on a worrying scale.
“From what we’ve seen of the European election campaign so far, it looks, at the moment, less sensational than some of the attempts we’ve seen,” Portman said. “What we can see at the moment is this continuation of a message that Europe is collapsing, that the elites aren’t paying attention to ordinary people, and that Europe’s values and identities are under threat.”
Google, Facebook, and Twitter are working with the EU to keep misleading or deliberately inflammatory messages away from the more than 400 million eligible voters in the EU’s 28 member nations.
The companies have made political advertising more transparent and ensured shady entities are blocked from setting up fake accounts.
The Financial Times newspaper says the companies have not seen evidence of coordinated, state-sponsored, disinformation campaigns.
The three technology companies have each set up teams to seek out malicious propaganda. Facebook says it now has a team of 30,000 people working on safety and security issues, which is three times the number it had at the start of 2017.
Yoel Roth, head of site integrity at Twitter, told the paper: “We are always seeing a baseline level of (misinformation) but nothing that has coalesced around a specific topic, theme, or group, or even country.”


(Latest Update
May 22,
2019)


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