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This is the Government's plan to monitor, investigate and combat "disinformation" campaigns from National Security

The Official State Gazette of this Thursday has published the Procedure for action against disinformation approved by the National Security Council (CSN), the highest organ of the State in matters of national security.

This new text updates a similar one approved a year ago and that comes to collect the Action Plan against Community disinformation presented by the European Union two years ago and in force since 2019 with the aim of guaranteeing the development of democratic processes, although not only, without interference.

The BOE has published the procedure for action against disinformation approved by the National Security Council, the highest state body for national security

The procedure for action against disinformation in Spain, therefore, emanates from the European plan that proposes to develop its capacities against the phenomenon of destabilizing fake news and regulates their behavior.

Essentially, it puts the focus on a standing committee coordinated by the Secretary of State for Communication and directed by the Department of Homeland Security, which will ensure coordination between ministries on this matter and the establishment of four levels of system activation depending on the severity of a disinformation campaign and its effects.

We talk about campaigns that can be born on social networks and spread to the media or digital platforms. The procedure does not focus its focus on any particular communicative instrument, but if the fight against disinformation slides, it has the main responsible for "the media, public authorities and social media platforms", ensuring that it is considered by the public.

With the CNI and the Government, but without journalists or the media

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The Standing Committee against disinformation that establishes this procedure approved on October 6, is coordinated by the Secretary of State for Communication, directed by the Department of National Security, as we said, and composed of the National Intelligence Center (CNI) dependent on the Ministry of Defense, the Cabinet of coordination and studies of the Secretary of State for Security of the Ministry of the Interior, the General Directorate of Communication, Public Diplomacy and Networks of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, EU and Cooperation and the Secretary of State for Digital Transformation and Artificial Intelligence (SEDIA) of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation.

There will be no presence in it, neither of journalists working in the media nor of the information companies themselves, nor of digital platforms such as social networks, despite the fact that the text does provide that the authorities may "request the collaboration of those organizations or persons whose contribution is considered timely and relevant in the framework of the fight against the phenomenon of disinformation."

Despite recognizing the fundamental role of the media and other actors in the fight against disinformation, they are not represented in the Standing Committee against disinformation that aims to promote interministerial coordination at the operational level

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The collaboration of the press it is necessary in a matter such as the fight against false news and the procedure itself recognizes this alluding to its "essential role in the fight against misinformation, with actions such as identifying and not contributing to its dissemination, promoting awareness-raising activities and training or developing tools to prevent its spread." The role also played by digital platforms, the academic world, the technology sector, non-governmental organizations and society in general, explains the procedure.

The four levels of activation of the system for the detection of disinformation campaigns and analysis of their impact

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Four levels of activation that serve "both for the detection of disinformation campaigns and their analysis of possible impacts on National Security, as well as for support in the management of crisis situations where there could be an impact derived from said campaigns."

The level 1 allows to act at a technical level with the aim of "detect, carry out early warning and notify your community of reference". In other words, it specifically includes the tracking and monitoring of communication networks and channels for the detection of the campaigns it intends to combat. It also includes participation in the Rapid Alert System of the European Union and assessment to raise the level or rule out the danger.

At Level 2Once a disinformation campaign has been detected, the Permanent Commission against disinformation comes into play, which would monitor and evaluate it. Actions would also be proposed, a coordination cell could be activated if necessary and it would be decided whether to raise the level and treatment of the campaign or carry out "a public communication campaign directed by the Secretary of State for Communication depending on the nature of the disinformation campaign".

The highest level of activation, level 4, establishes a "political response" to disinformation campaigns carried out by a third State

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The level 3 understands "information at the political-strategic level" in charge of the Secretary of State for Communication, as well as the monitoring and evaluation of the alert by the Situation Committee or public Communication agreed upon according to the guidelines of the Situation Committee, the crisis management body of the National Security Council.

Finally, the level 4, establishes the "coordination of the response at the political level" by the CSN in case of public attribution of a disinformation campaign to a third State. A situation like the one that could have occurred in the US elections or the 2016 Brexit referendum.

But... What is for this procedure and, therefore, for the Government of Spain, what we call disinformation? In the first section, dedicated to argumentation and context, the procedure cites the definition of the European Commission that defines it as "verifiably false or misleading information that is created, presented and disclosed for profit or to deliberately deceive the population , and that may cause public harm ". A damage that can be done to a democratic process, such as elections, but also to public goods such as "health, the environment or security, among others." Furthermore, beyond counteracting, strictly census measures are not specified.

These are the objectives of this government procedure against disinformation

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The text approved by the National Security Council and signed by the First Vice President of the Government and Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory, Carmen Calvo, defends that the actions and processes established They seek to help "to improve and increase transparency regarding the origin of disinformation and the way in which it is produced and disseminated, in addition to evaluating its content".

It says that these actions "will support the promotion of truthful, complete and timely information that comes from contrasted sources of the media and administrations in the framework of public communication" and also intends raise awareness about the general problem of misinformation, reinforced by the argument of the infodemic suffered due to the coronavirus pandemic, to both public and private organizations.

The specific objectives of the procedure are the following:

  • Identify and define the organs, agencies and authorities of the system.

  • Establish levels for prevention, detection, early warning, analysis, response, and evaluation.

  • Describe the specific tasks involved for the established levels in the fight against disinformation.

  • Define the mechanisms established for the exchange of information at the strategic, operational and technical levels.

  • Determine the mechanisms for evaluating the implementation and operation of the procedure.

  • Define a methodology for the identification, analysis and management of misinformation events.

  • Propose the framework and composition of a work team ad hoc for the development and review of a National Strategy to Fight Disinformation.

The Popular Party considers that this ministerial order and its purpose are a "real scandal" because the Executive, it says, "arrogates to" itself the power to decide what is false or true news "

The main opposition party, the Popular Party, has accused the Executive of wanting to decide what a fake news Y has requested the withdrawal of the ministerial order published today by the BOE. Pablo Montesinos, its Deputy Secretary for Communication, has called the matter "a real scandal" after the publication of the procedure and has said that the Government thus assumes "the power to decide what is false or true news." He has also asked that they sit down with the associations of journalists and media professionals.