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'Fake news could hamper Covid vaccine rollout across Ireland and EU'

'Fake news could hamper Covid vaccine rollout across Ireland and EU'

MEP Deirdre Clune has warned of the negative impact of fake news and disinformation amid Covid vaccination programme rollout

A successful vaccine rollout campaign could be impacted by the spread of "fake news and disinformation", according to Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune.

MEP Clune said that unchecked fake news and misinformation could negatively impact the efficacy of a country's vaccine strategy, and its uptake.

MEP Clune said that it is vital that Ireland along with other EU countries ensure that they do all they can to stop the spread of disinformation when it comes to the Covid-19 vaccine.

MEP Clune said that recent events in the US showed how fake news can have a devastating effect for a country. 

“Misinformation and harmful content may not be illegal, but there are concerns about negative impacts on systemic societal risks such as disinformation or manipulative and abusive activities. This includes coordinated operations aimed at amplifying information such as the use of bots or fake accounts for the creation of fake or misleading information," MEP Clune said. 

“These concerns were very visibly borne out during recent events in the USA, which demonstrated how conspiracy theories and misinformation, when left unchecked, can have disastrous consequences.”

MEP Clune said disinformation need not only apply to events like the violent demonstration and occupation witnessed at the US Capitol building recently.

Last December, the European Commission published the Digital Services Act (DSA) proposal, which aims to regulate aspects of the online world.

“The digital economy is unrecognisable from that of 20 years ago and that is why we need the DSA for better protection for consumers and to protect fundamental rights online, establish a powerful transparency and accountability framework for online platforms, and lead to fairer and more open digital markets," MEP Clune said. 

“With the spread of disinformation with regard to vaccines, the DSA can be a powerful tool to combat this. The DSA proposes to impose obligations for very large online platforms to address what can be considered 'systemic risk' given their systemic impact in facilitating public debate, economic transactions, and the dissemination of information, opinions and ideas. 

“It is encouraging to see progress on the DSA, and we in the Parliament will spend the next number of months working on and hopefully improving on these proposals, so we can be world leaders in effectively managing the digital space to everyone's benefit.”

MEP Clune, who is a Member of the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, added: “Each day we hold a world of information in our hands, we can search for something in just a few seconds. That access to information is fascinating and powerful, but it also means that misleading information can find its way to us more easily. Now more than ever we need to be aware of misinformation, how to recognise it and how to protect ourselves from it. In the time of a global pandemic the wrong information can be very dangerous.”

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