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Brussels approves for the first time a game to fight Russian propaganda

Budgetary appropriation of 800,000 euros will reinforce EU unity against disinformation

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Brussels approves for the first time a game to fight Russian propaganda

The battle against foreign propaganda will have its own budget in European Union for first time. The community accounts for 2018 include an endowment of 800,000 euros to reinforce unit against disinformation operating in Brussels from 2015. Although this is a modest departure, idea of earmarking specific resources for this work reveals growing concern of European countries in face of manipulation of third parties (to a large extent, Russia). Spain has raised pressure to place this battle against false information between EU's responsibilities.

Europe has overcome a taboo by allocating a budget to a task that began with many misgivings: fight against hoaxes that spread Russian actors in social networks and in related media. The modest East Stratcom Task Force, which is dependent on European diplomatic service, will have its own departure from January, as contained in budget agreement reached this week between European Council-representing Member States-and Parliament. This working group began by trying to neutralize Kremlin's attempts to destabilize countries in neighborhood that it shares with EU, such as Ukraine. But emergence of false news about member countries mselves has multiplied calls to curb influence of Russian public media in English (such as Sputnik or Russia today) in heart of Europe.

The diplomatic service now studies how to translate this budgetary novelty into real improvements in unit, explains a spokesman for department directed by Federica Mogherini. The endowment is intended, in principle, to three lines of work opened by EU: East (against Russian propaganda), south (against influence of ISIS) and Balkans (to improve image of EU in that critical area). In spite of everything, it is east that receives most attention because challenge that faces is considered greater. The recent direct accusation made by United Kingdom that Russia encourages Ciberpropaganda or Russian interference in Catalan crisis revealed by this newspaper are latest examples of a complex and very difficult phenomenon to tackle.

The extra funding for 2018 will be devoted to new contracts, including surveys, to maintain and expand network of specialists in different countries, to training in strategic communication and to maintain linguistic diversity of products that It produces that European cell (now distributed in English and Russian).

Until now, unit operates with 14 experts, mostly voluntarily provided by some member countries and without ir own budget lines. To be aware of false news circulating by means and networks, it has a network of 400 collaborators disseminated in 30 countries, to a large extent from east. A database collects main propaganda tendencies in Web Euvsdisinfo.eu.

Beyond expanding unit against manipulation of Moscow, EU budget for 2018 will include anor game for similar purposes. The diplomatic service will allocate EUR 1.1 million to combat disinformation more systematically, wherever it comes from. Brussels has always focused its work on traditional communication, but easy spread of erroneous or malicious news social networks compels m to change ir strategy. This new chapter, still to be developed, will develop tools for monitoring and analysis of data, as outlined in Department of Mogherini.

The initiative has been widely supported by Member States. The 28 countries now share more generally a preoccupation limited to Eastern Bloc- closest to Russia-and to United Kingdom. The foreign ministers pledged on 13 November to increase efforts at European level. And Summit of Heads of State and Government between EU and six countries of Eastern Partnership, held a week ago, has completed se efforts. Sources of one of se eastern delegations ensure that Spanish insistence on increasing se resources was key to allow best endowment of Antipropaganda unit.

Brussels also aims to employ 140 delegations that it has deployed abroad to improve communication on community project. Next year re will be EUR 3 million more to disseminate EU's projects in world.

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