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Brussels – News that the new European Parliament (EP) will ban traditional cars or that MEPs will order Europe-wide mobilization and send people to war in Ukraine – even such disinformation could appear in the last days or hours before the June EP elections, according to European Commission (EC) Vice-President Věra Jourová. False, deliberately manipulated information spread with the intent to deceive readers or viewers has existed for thousands of years, but now their authors have many more ways to spread them thanks to artificial intelligence (AI).

According to a Eurobarometer survey from last March, more than a third of EU citizens (38 percent) believe that disinformation and its spread are now the biggest threat to democracy. It is precisely in connection with this threat that the European Parliament has adopted several key norms in the past legislative period, aimed at increasing resilience to disinformation and foreign interference in the EU. These include the EU Digital Services Act (DSA), the Digital Markets Act (DMA), new rules for political advertising transparency, the Artificial Intelligence Act, and the Media Freedom Act.

National authorities are working with EU institutions to ensure that the upcoming European elections are free and fair. Together, they are trying to protect the elections from various threats, such as information manipulation, cyberattacks, data breaches, and hybrid threats. The European Parliament also cooperates with major platforms. Large platforms like Google and social networks under Meta Platforms have also promised to help provide verified and reliable information.

Russia, which according to EU officials is the main source of disinformation, has a special strategy for each member state, according to Jourová. It invests more in those where it sees it is cheaper to influence more people, as is the case with Slovakia or Bulgaria. Disinformation is often linked to other attacks on the information space in the EU, whether it is cyberattacks, espionage, or corruption of politicians, noted Jourová, mentioning a case uncovered by Czech intelligence services.

At the end of March, the Czech government expanded its national sanctions list to include the pro-Russian news platform Voice of Europe, which was interviewed by, for example, German MP of Czech origin Petr Bystroň or German MEP Maximilian Krah. Czech Deník N and German magazine Der Spiegel subsequently reported that the Security Information Service (BIS) suspects Bystroň of taking bribes from the pro-Russian network. Krah is also suspected of being linked to the pro-Russian influence network.