Dutch gov't takes official stance against Fake News, foreign electioneering

With the municipal elections and a referendum on the new Big Data law for the Dutch intelligence services coming up in March next year, the Dutch government has taken an official stance against fake news and foreign meddling and is taking more steps to battle these attempts to influence public opinion in the Netherlands.

The government is teaming up with the European Commission, NATO, and a number of media and social media companies to prevent the spread of fake news and to make sure voters get correct and complete information in the run-up to the elections, Minister Kasja Ollongren of Home Affairs and Kingdom relations wrote to parliament on Monday. "It is essential that public opinion is not influenced by disinformation from state actors", the Ministry wrote in a statement.

Minister Ollongren recently met with representatives from Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft to discuss measures that have been and can still be taken to prevent the spread of disinformation. One of these measures is a collaboration between newspaper NU.nl, Leiden University and Facebook. They are working on a special dashboard which will show articles that Facebook users identified as fake news. Ollongren will continue these talks in the coming period. She will also meet with media parties in January.

The Minister also recently traveled to Strasbourg to discuss the European approach to fake news. The Netherlands will work to strengthen the East StratCom Taskforce, which identifies, names and disproves fake news spread by pro-Kremlin media.

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science approached candidates to join the 'high level group fake news' that the European Commission is in the process of establishing. In this group journalists, scientists, and experts will discuss the phenomenon of fake news and make recommendations on how to jointly combat it. 

The European Commission is also starting a public consultation in which the public can share information and experiences around fake news. The Netherlands is advocated for more intensive cooperation between the EU and NATO in this. 

Earlier this year Dutch military intelligence agency MIVD called Russia's attempts to influence public opinion with fake news the second largest security risk to the Netherlands and the Western world in general. Last month Ollongren also warned of increasing attempts by Russia and other countries to spread disinformation in the Netherlands, causing much unease among parliamentarians. 

Concerns that Russia may be trying to influence the parliamentary election in March of this year, or hack into the outdated election systems, prompted the government to have all ballots in the election counted by hand.