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EU scrutinizes fake news

January 15, 2018

A 29-member expert group to tackle fake news has been launched in Brussels. Bulgarian EU commissioner Mariya Gabriel said Europe needed a joint approach that must be "carefully thought through."

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Image: picture-alliance/picturedesk.com/H. Fohringer

Gabriel, the EU's digital affairs commissioner, told the group Monday that mechanisms were needed to identify and limit the circulation of false information which was "spreading today at a disturbing rate."

The group, comprising outlets such as Facebook, Sky and RTL, watchdog groups such as Reporters Without Borders, and academics, is due to submit its recommendations to the European Commission by the end of April.

The commission's initiative follows widespread criticism in France and Germany of government drives to curb flows of information deemed fake, especially via social media.

Read more - Germany implements hate speech crackdown 

German, French initiatives

Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron announced he would introduce legislation to stop fake news prior to French elections.

In Germany since January 1 media outlets risk fines of up to 50 million euros ($61 million) if they fail to remove obvious hate speech within 24 hours.

Examples included a racist tweet directed at the son of tennis veteran Boris Becker and a far-right parliamentarian's questioning of Cologne police using Arabic.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas, who steered the legislation through Germany's previous parliament, has since faced widespread calls to abandon the law, adopted after a surge in racist and incendiary speech online.

Last Tuesday, the tabloid newspaper Bild urged Berlin to "spare us the thought police."

Maas replied that "calls to murder, threats, insults and incitement of the masses, or Auschwitz lies are not an expression of freedom of opinion but rather attacks on the freedom of opinion of others."

Read more - German satire magazine back on Twitter after 'hate speech' ban

ipj/kms (Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP)