19 European media outlets from 13 countries are fact-checking the May 2019 European elections for you

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FCEU Newsletter #7 - Good news and bad news after the election week-end

Newsletter

FactCheckEU, France

27 May 2019, Updated: 27 May 2019

It's done! The elections are done! Let's talk about the campaign on the misinformation side.

Hi everyone, this is Jules Darmanin from FactcheckEU. It's done! The elections are over! I'm not going to comment on the results because that's not what we're here for. However, let's talk about the campaign on the misinformation side.

The good news

This feels weird to say in a newsletter about fact-checking, but there wasn't much mis/disinformation over the last week. Less than we could expect, at least. It didn't dominate the conversation as it did around the past elections in Brazil, the UK, France or the United States. Here are some hypotheses to explain this: 

  • The European elections are exceptionally unpolarised. In most countries, voters could choose from a very broad variety of parties and political tendencies. They are proportional elections, which lowers the influence of national powerhouses as people tend to vote for the list that is closer to their ideas. This makes the issues at stake more complex, which can lower the impact of misinformation.
  • They are also less about people and more about parties/ideas. During electoral campaigns, misinformation tends to be shared in order to attack one's character (ask Nancy Pelosi). It's much harder to do this when voters know the candidates less.
  • Much like the other great continental democratic experiment, the Eurovision Song Contest, the European elections are complex. They take place simultaneously in 28 countries and 26 languages. The issues in debate are very different from a country to another. This lowers the risk of having actors meddling in the process, because it would take a lot of resources to do so. 
  • There is not a tremendous amount of interest for the European elections, as opposed to national elections. Yesterday, our Spanish partner Maldito Bulo listed Election day hoaxes, and they all were related to local elections that took place the same day in Spain. 

The bad news

No, it's not all roses. Last week, Avaaz shared its report on coordinated far-right networks, most of them having been active way before the European elections. This report shows amongst other things that disinformation is not only a geopolitical information warfare issue, as it is sometimes presented, but a problem that has to be tackled first and foremost at a national level.

A significant part of the disinformation we tackled as FactcheckEU was related to immigration and Muslim Europeans, which is also nothing new. However, without trying too much to predict the future, we can expect another theme to become more prevalent in the years to come: climate and climate activists. In Germany, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was often targeted by disinformation over the past months, as we reported in the first edition of this newsletter.

What's next for FactcheckEU

The short answer is TBD! We'll take some time to look into what worked and what did not work. We're also going to share a couple of articles that are still relevant after the election. We'll have more to share soon.

Have a great week, 
-Jules

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