The European Commission recently criticized China and Russia for running COVID-19 disinformation campaigns in the EU and the world. While Russia has been accused several times of conducting such operations, this is the first time that China has been publicly charged as a disinformation operator by the EU.
In a report published by the EU, it is noted that both China and Russia are spreading false COVID-19 information in a bid to improve their international image as well as undermine democratic debate on the viral outbreak. Vera Jourova, the European commission vice-president, pointed out that such disinformation campaigns end up negatively affecting the health of EU citizens. As such, she believes that it would be too dangerous not to act against such campaigns.
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“I believe if we have evidence we should not shy away from naming and shaming… What we also witnessed is a surge in narratives undermining our democracies and in effect our response to the crisis, for example, the claim there are secret U.S. biological laboratories on former Soviet republics has been spread by both pro-Kremlin outlets, as well as Chinese officials and state media… I strongly believe that a geopolitically strong EU can only materialize if we are assertive,” Vera said, as reported by The Guardian.
She asked online platforms like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to provide monthly reports on how they are fighting such disinformation campaigns. Due to the lockdown measures implemented by various EU states, many people are confined to their homes. As such, they are spending more time on the Internet and thereby becoming more exposed to fake information.
The EU’s strong statement against China’s nefarious online disinformation campaign is a far cry from its behavior in March when the organization apparently edited a CCP coronavirus report to portray China in a more favorable light. Many EU officials had expressed discontent with the move, which is believed to have forced the organization to take a stronger stance against the Chinese regime.
Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, believes that the EU should allocate more resources to its task force that debunks misleading online stories. The current operations of the task force largely focus on misinformation from Russia. Borrell also wants the task force to not only counteract fake information, but also boost the impact of positive stories. He warned that the EU should adopt a more robust stance on China since the communist regime does not share the democratic values of Europe. The EU has classified China as a “systematic rival,” something that has bothered Beijing several times.
EU COVID-19 situation
In the EU, countries like Spain, Italy, Germany, and France continue to be the most affected nations in the region with more than 870,000 infected people. The European Central Bank has decided to buy billions in additional bonds to offset the negative economic effects of the CCP coronavirus pandemic. Countries are planning on lifting restrictions on travel. France and Germany have reopened their borders after three months of closure. However, the governments have reiterated that travel should only be undertaken if absolutely necessary.
Meanwhile, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy have signed an agreement with pharma company AstraZeneca for supplying 300 million doses of a potential CCP coronavirus vaccine. The vaccine is presently in its experimental phase and is expected to be ready for use by the end of this year. Once it is available, the vaccine will be distributed to countries according to their population.