The magnitude of disinformation and its effects is causing significant concern, above all in specific contexts such as war or pandemic. In line with this, disinformation spreading on social media can be easily manipulated and distorted creating ad-hoc disinformation effects.
To face this issue, an articulated and forward-looking policy for countering threats in the information space is under development at European level. The adoption of the Digital Services Act, entered into force on November 1st, 2022, signs a crucial point for the European regulation. In parallel, disinformation needs to be carefully discussed also at national level.
The MediaFutures partner, LUISS, is part of the Italian Digital Media Observatory (IDMO). IDMO, among its scope, has the task to set up a structured conversation with Italian policy makers and national stakeholders to foster decision makers in understanding the urgency and complexity of the issue, and to find out concrete measures to counteract disinformation. To do that, the partner in charge of the activity, has developed a policy dialogue strategy to create a forum discussion where stakeholders can exchange ideas and debate that will inform policy makers in the adoption of measures against disinformation. As preliminary activity, it has been mapped the stakeholders to be engaged in the dialogue and have been identified some key profiles from public and private sector. Accordingly, the consortium has started organizing high level stakeholders’ meetings to put in the center of the debate how to counteract disinformation.
Just to provide some figures, over the last year, IDMO has engaged in the policy dialogue more than 200 stakeholders, organized 6 high level policy events in Italy, engaged 14 foreign Embassies, involved in meeting and discussion at least 10 representatives of EU and Italian institutions. To give a glimpse of the past activities, two meetings have been organized with foreign Ambassies. On June 30th, 2022, representatives of 14 ambassies (Canada, Colombia, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, United Kingdom, Romania, United States, and Ukraine) have attended the event on the impact of disinformation during pandemic crisis and the war in Ukraine and the strategies to stem the phenomenon through the experience of different national approaches. Then, on September 7th, 2022, IDMO, together with the Embassies of Canada, the UK and the US, have organize the following “Beyond Fake News: The Power of Media Professionals in the Fight Against Disinformation” aimed at sharing national experiences and best practices in fighting disinformation.
Due to the emergency of the war in Ukraine, last year have been focused on the impact of disinformation on war. To relaunch the support to Ukraine, two events have been entirety dedicated to the war. On May 23rd 2022, Emine Dzhaparova, First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, had her lectio magistralis on “Ukraine and the European Union: together”. On December 16th, 2022, an event has been organised with the Ukraine Embassy in Italy to answer the questions about the future of Ukraine in Europe, about the origins of the conflict, the violations of rights and international relations. At the center of the debate, there was the need to face the new challenges of disinformation and its impact on public opinion and democracies.
Furthermore, during the International Fact Checking Day, on April 4th, 2022, a policy session has been organized to discuss the role of institutions and platforms to fight disinformation. The panel was composed by Diego Ciulli, Head of Government Affairs e Public Policy Google, of the, Prof. Oreste Pollicino, Università Bocconi, Sen. Giuseppe Moles, Sottosegretario di Stato alla Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri. Another event has been organized supporting the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affaires on February 7th, 2022 entitled “(Dis)informazione- Sfide internazionali e resilienza interna” at the presence of the former Italian Ministry of Foreign Affaire, Luigi Di Maio.
In parallel, IDMO has keep very high the attention in connecting to international European and international forum. Among the others, IDMO took part to the OECD Global Forum on “Building Trust and Reinforcing Democracy” (November 17th, 2022). Also, IDMO has promoted the connection with EDMO and its working sharing knowledge and best practices sharing in a common sense of collaboration and cooperation.
If 2022 was an intense year for policy activities, 2023 began with a strong reflection on how to make the process even more structured and pervasive. On 17 January 2023, the Italian Bureau of the Commission for EU Policies, in relation to the examination of the act COM (2022) 457 on the common framework for media services within the internal market, held the hearings of the representatives of Meta Italia and some information experts, among the experts the coordinator of IDMO, Prof. Gianni Riotta, has been invited. The discussion continued on March 10th, 2023, during the Annual IDMO event, where a session of the working day has been dedicated to policy activities. During the panel, representatives of the Italian government and META, discussed Italy’s challenges in defining a systemic approach to fighting disinformation. Results will inform next research activities and policy events.
By Simoda De Rosa, DEN Institute