The European Union’s (EU) top official for digital affairs on Tuesday, the 26th of September, described the upcoming Slovak elections as a “test run” to assess Europe’s electoral capacity to defend against Russian interference using online disinformation campaigns, often described as a “multimillion-euro weapon of mass manipulation”, writes Politico.
Slovakia’s parliamentary elections on the 30th of September have gained significance in the light of the controversial issues surrounding Russia and Ukraine. With the populist Smer-SD party, led by former prime minister Robert Fico, leading the polls in favour of ending military support for Ukraine, the elections are a crucial test of Slovakia’s position on these issues, according to Věra Jourová, vice-president of the European Commission (EC), which oversees digital affairs and democracy at EU level.
The EC and the Slovak media regulator met with major technology companies including Facebook Meta, Google Alphabet and TikTok, urging them to invest more in fighting disinformation ahead of Slovakia’s upcoming parliamentary elections. Slovakia is recognised as
a “fertile ground” for pro-Russian narratives
and a poll revealed that more than half of Slovaks believe the elections could be rigged. Jourová said that Meta has promised to increase the number of fact-checking workers to combat the spread of falsehoods on Facebook platform, which is popular in Slovakia.
The EC published detailed reports on Tuesday, the 25th of September, on how Facebook, YouTube and TikTok handled online falsehoods in the first half of 2023. The social media companies found activity in the first half of 2023 that was characterised by Russian state-sponsored influence campaigns.
YouTube shut down more than 400 channels involved in “coordinated influence operations linked to the Russian state-sponsored Internet Research Agency (IRA)”, as reported by Google. TikTok shut down several disinformation campaigns, including a network of more than 3 000 fake Russian accounts and 418 000 accounts spreading false content in German about the war in Ukraine and its impact on the EU economy, and 5.9 million fake accounts. LinkedIn closed more than 6.7 million fake accounts. Meta revealed that it had removed more than one million fake accounts worldwide.
Jourová criticised X (formerly Twitter) for failing to effectively combat misinformation on its platform, saying it had the highest proportion of posts
containing misleading or false information.
Jourová stressed that although Elon Musk’s Platform X has waived the Code of Practice on Misinformation, it is still covered by the Digital Services Act, which is now in full force. This means that X is still obliged to comply with the rules on disinformation and moderation of online content in the EU.
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