Action Plan against Disinformation

European Commission contribution to the European Council – December 5th 2018

The starting point of this contribution is that free speech is a core value. The citizen must be able to have verifiable information freely. They need this in order to be able to correctly inform themselves about the wide range of political issues and positions. This democratic process is threatened when disinformation mixes things up.

What is the problem?

Disinformation is understood in this document as information that can be verified as being false or misleading. It is created, presented and disseminated for economic gain, or to mislead the public intentionally, and may cause harm to that public.

This is intended to include threats to democratic processes as well as public health, public safety, the environment or public security.

The action plan responds to the European Council’s question of measures to protect the Union’s democratic systems and to defeat disinformation, including the context of the emerging European elections.

Understanding the threat.

An increase of targeted disinformation campaigns against the Union, its institutions and its policies,  is expected, in the run-up to the European elections of 2019. It uses deep-fakes (video manipulation) counterfeits of official documents, bots (automated software), trolls (false profiles on social media) and information theft. Also the traditional, classical, media continue to play a role. The tools and the techniques change quickly, therefore the response must also be done quickly.

Four pillars for ten actions by the Union in response to disinformation.

Actions against disinformation require political decision-taking and cooperation, across Governments (using counter-hybrid threat, cyber security, information and strategic communication communities, data protection, electoral, Legal and media authorities).

The Four pillars are:

  1. To improve the possibilities of the Union’s institutions to detect, analyse and denounce disinformation;
  2. Strengthen collaborative response against disinformation;
  3. Mobilising the private sector to remove disinformation;
  4. Raising awareness and improving social resilience.

Pillar 1: Improving the possibilities of the Union’s institutions to detect, analyse and denounce disinformation.

Action 1: To strengthen a number of Strategic Communication Task forces with specialized staff in data mining and analysis to process the relevant data. It considers also additional media monitoring services for the many language areas Europe has. In addition, we also need to invest in tools to process these data and conduct assessments.

Action 2: The mandates of the strategic communication Task forces for the western Balkan countries and the southern countries will be reviewed, also in order to effectively address misinformation. Member States should further enhance their national capabilities, including in terms of support for the Union with employees.

Pillar 2: Reinforcing collaborative responses against disinformation.

Action 3: A RAS (Rapid Alert System) is developed and put into use. This RAS should work closely with services from the Member States that are reachable 24/7.

Action 4: An increase in communication efforts on the values and policies of the Union, with a view to the forthcoming European elections. The Member States must also make this effort.

Action 5: The Commission and the High Representative, together with the Member States, will strengthen their strategic communications in the Union’s environment. This is done among other by sharing information, sharing in the lessons, raising awareness, proactive reporting and research to strengthen and share information.

Pillar 3: Mobilising the private sector to remove disinformation.

Action 6: The Commission monitors closely and continuously the implementation of the Code of Practice by its signatories. Where necessary, and in the light of the impending elections, the Commission will insist on a swift and effective compliant implementation. To this end an assessment will take place. If this ‘ Code of Practice ‘ proves insufficient, the Commission may propose further actions, including legal proceedings.

Pillar 4: Raising awareness and improving social resilience.

Action 7: In the longer term, targeted campaigns will be organised for the wider public, as well as training for the media and opinion-makers in the Union and its environment. This is aimed at facing the negative effect of disinformation. Efforts will be taken by independent media and quality journalism as well as the investigation of disinformation to provide a comprehensive response.

Action 8: Member States together with the Commission should provide teams of multidisciplinary independent fact-checkers and researchers with specific knowledge of local information, to detect disinformation campaigns on, among other, social networks and digital media.

Action 9: Actions will be taken on the media literacy of the public. Member states should also make rapid use of provisions of the Audio-visual Media Services Directive.

Action 10: Member states must ensure an effective follow-up of the ‘ Elections Package ‘, in particular the ‘ Recommendation ‘. The Commission will monitor this and provide support and advice where appropriate.

 

The terrorist’s son

Author: Zak Ebrahim with Jeff Giles

In this book the son talks about his father and mother, his youth, his family, and the atrocities of the world.

People are cruel and very short-sighted to each other when it comes to it, . The cultural layer on top of the short drives and instincts that distinguish man from animals is apparently very thin. Z has experienced this from different points of view: hatred of believers of another faith, hatred of children who are too young for empathy, hatred of adults for being simply connected to a “perpetrator” because of bloodlines, hatred against a system where you were received but could not live in, hatred because of greed, hatred in order to be able to respond and to “be at the other side”, but also repentance about the latter.

What Z proves is that they are all choices. Some are very influenced in this. Others are rock solid for their individuality and realize that they choose themselves. They choose despite the circumstances. And despite the circumstances, everyone is liable for his own choices. Regardless of a good lawyer. Regardless of a religious leader. Regardless of the system. Regardless of the pure fact that many can be pointed out for their share in your choice.

That is why terrorism is never OK.

That is why it is important that everyone realizes that their own choice makes a difference. That is in general the hope for this world. That is in general the message that I read in this booklet.

Z kept a TED talk about it. You can find them here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyR-K2CZIHQ

Lessons identified from this life can be:

  • People can continue to choose themselves despite the hateful circumstances.
  • Everything can be misused, also faith.
  • There are four important pillars in a person’s life:

    • family and friends,
    • work,
    • residence,
    • (psychological) health.
  • Always hope for the understanding of others, but do not expect it.
  • Always create a strong friendship with people before you allow yourself to be vulnerable to them.
  • Learn to trust again and again.

The Storyteller’s secret

Author: Carmine Gallo

In this book, the author explains the secrets of the best storytellers. Each of them has his own success story. But how do they do it? The readers of the book “Talk like TED” have a strong sequel in this book, where more secrets are uncovered. I include this book in my bibliography because telling stories is or should be made relevant for everyone at every level in every organization.

According to the author, there are 5 types of storytellers:

1 ° Storytellers who fuel our inner fire.

2 ° Story tellers who teach us something.

3 ° Storytellers who make things easier.

4 ° Storytellers who motivate us.

5 ° Storytellers who set movements in motion.

From each of these groups of storytellers, the author makes an analysis of how they do the story on the basis of illustrious illustrative examples. I give here a brief summary of the “lessons identified”.

1 ° Storytellers who fuel our inner fire.
  • Let your passion float and share it
  • The question is: “What will make your heart beat faster?”
  • Rigid optimism: see a failure as a lesson to improve your storytelling technique.
  • Believe in the power of your idea.
  • Practice! You shape yourself by practicing.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Tell your story personally.
  • Bring a tension in your story.
  • Do not shy away from difficult subjects. They build an emotional bond with the audience.
  • Use in your story the technique of the three-part stories (eg trigger, transformation and life lesson)
  • Put from your experience or from an event that gave rise to your ambition into the story to become part of the folklore of your organization.
  • Use a higher goal, a higher mission, in your story as a motivator.
  • Sometimes, use the following three steps (Peter Guber):

    • Attract attention with a question or an unexpected challenge
    • Provide an emotional experience through a story about the struggle that ultimately leads to the challenge
    • Stimulate your story with a ‘call to action’.

2 ° Story tellers who teach us something.

  • Facts and numbers are fun and important, but rarely have a place in a story or a pitch. You should not touch people in their heads but in their hearts.
  • 65% of your content must consist of stories. It creates confidence and a deeper emotional bond with the audience.
  • Break through expected patterns in a positive, shocking or surprising way. E.g. Bill Gates released mosquitoes in a room at a TED talk.
  • Use analogies. This helps understanding information and concepts that others have no knowledge of.
  • Do not use statistics or jargon.
  • Tell us about the problem you had, and how you solved it. Use specific, concrete and relevant details.
  • Tell a story in which the customer recognizes himself.
  • A brand is not a single story. Share the stage with the good storytellers of your organization. Everyone has a story.
  • Humor is a powerful emotionally charged event. That is why you use it best just before a moment that you want the listener to remember. It is followed by focused listening. It increases the effective transfer of the message afterwards.
  • Know what you are talking about and be and stay true to your brand.
  • Twitter, Facebook, Vine and Instagram are meant to leave just enough information to attract attention to the rest of your content.
  • Our brains are set on stories, not on abstract matters.
  • The feeling you give people is important to adjust behavior.
  • Exceed expectations. Put the dots on the ‘i’.

3 ° Storytellers who make things easier.

  • If you can not make something clear on the back of an envelope, it is a bad idea.
  • A good story starts with a good header that immediately makes both the idea and the message clear.
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say and preferably use (only) a few thought-out words.
  • Use the three-line rule. It gives structure, simplicity and action.
  • Use simple and accessible language so that students from a primary school can understand it.
  • Use video. Enter a conversation with the viewer.
  • Use imagery, and less, less and less text to give a presentation a lively image with feeling.
  • Introduce heroes and villains to keep the story simple.
  • Keep the story to the most important things that everyone can understand.
  • Simplify every complexity.
  • Practice a pitch until it becomes interesting and it can be given in 60 seconds.

4 ° Storytellers who motivate us.

  • You need a struggle to have a villain overcome by the hero. The struggle is a sign of honor.
  • Never believe the story of “having or not having DNA for success”.
  • Motivate others to dream bigger and achieve everything that we are capable of.
  • Do not break bricks, do not work for an income, but build a cathedral.
  • Sketch with stories an image behind the mission and vision of the organization.
  • Use stories to make culture. Make your people passionate about it. Let the employees see that they are the hero in their own story with the customer. Share their stories. Put them in the spotlight.
  • Inspire with stories about adversity, grief and victory. Use tension and triumph.
  • Share in the lessons from the past with others. Those that gave you strength. Appreciate and protect your origin.
  • Speak about real people who have endured hardships. It sets an emotional heart on fire.
  • Use specific, lively, tangible and concrete details
5 ° Storytellers who set movements in motion.
  • Use short words and short sentences and a minimum of words.
  • Use metaphors and anaphors.
  • Use tension and triumph to empathize the audience.
  • Do not use an endless list of facts and figures and other information. Use facts to convince in balance with a trip to another time and place by means of a presentation.
  • Put the audience in the situation of the hero. Give them the feeling that they can help determine the outcome.
  • Make the story big.
  • Technology complements a story, but the story comes first.

A final addition I would like to make is the following: do not shy away from an opportunity to sharpen your storytelling technique.

IRGC Guidelines for the governance of systemic risks

IRGC

Many of today’s challenges are related to climate change, biodiversity loss, degradation of the ecosystem, exposure to chemicals, etc. and these have all been characterized by a high degree of complexity. They often have multiple causes and internal feedbacks within and external feedbacks between systems and over time. They are often difficult to define, determine, and it is often difficult for us to agree on them. This contrasts sharply with conventional risks such as classical environmental issues: water quality, food problems, urban waste water, waste and wastewater management, etc. which are more successfully handled.

The analysis in this document has to do with slowly evolving catastrophic risks. Although they are often foreseeable, we often can not stop them because they are built into the nature of complex adaptive systems. Moreover, one of the defining characteristics of our modern world is the interdependence of these complex adaptive systems. But what are those systemic risks?

Systemic risks are the “threat that individual failures, accidents or interruptions that occur in a system continue through the system through a process of contagion”. It refers to a risk or probability of failure of a whole system as opposed to the failure of a single component. So there is a cascade of failure that involves the larger system. More abstractly, it is “a threat of a phase transition from one equilibrium state of the system to another, which is much less opportune, characterized by multiple self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms that make it difficult to reverse the evolution of the system”. Systems that are vulnerable to this often also have the characteristic of being interconnected. Examples of systemic risks are the financial crisis of 2008, the collapse of the Aral sea, and the overfishing of the oceans.

The guideline for “the governance of systemic risk” proposes an approach of 7 interrelated steps:

  1. Explore the system,
  2. Develop scenarios,
  3. Determine the objectives,
  4. Co-development management strategies,
  5. Focus on unforeseen obstacles and sudden critical shifts in the system,
  6. Decide, test and implement,
  7. Monitor, learn, review and adapt.

This requires iteration between and within each step.

The process must be coordinated by a “navigator” who plays a decisive role in bringing together the various stakeholders. He also ensures an effective implementation of the process and helps with the transfer of one transition from the system to another. It may be necessary for the organization to regularly adjust its objectives.

The process also involves addressing unexpected obstacles and sudden critical shifts. Obviously, the big obstacles must be known before the strategy is determined. But it must also be possible to think of sudden barriers. Adaptation possibilities of the organization are therefore a requirement.

The governance process for systemic risks must be open to a variety of possible entry points, depending on where the organization stands in its evolution, taking into account the course and timing of the development of the threat.

And in all of this, communication, openness and transparency are objective universal requirements to counteract difficulties in determining causal relations, psychological obstacles and often long latency periods. Round tables and platforms where information is shared are a requirement for creating awareness of existing needs and accepting the realistic management options.

 

The Gray Rhino – How to recognize and act on the obvious dangers we ignore

Author: Michèle Wucker

In this book, the author tells about things that are uncomfortable. It is not about “Black Swans” but about “Gray Rhinos”. What is the difference? Where black swans are very popular as events with a small probability but huge impact, gray rhinos events that are common, have a big probability, and have a huge impact. Where black swans are difficult to predict, or totally unexpected, gray rhinos are often seen on the horizon. But often people choose not to (want to) see them.

So there are some questions that we can ask, on which the author argues, such as “What are examples?” and “When should we respond?” And “Why do we ignore them while the costs and consequences are self-evident, and often greater than we even think, and that while we know this? ”

The author tries to answer these questions by analyzing the stages of gray rhinos events. These stages are: prediction that elicits denial, denial, muddling, diagnosis of the situation, panic, action, and post-treatment “because a crisis is a terrible thing to waste”.

A very important advice from the author is: think long term.

But the most important take aways of the book are in the last chapter: in that chapter the author gives a “Gray Rhino Safari Guide”. These are a set of principles to deal with the stages of the gray rhins, so “How to Not Get Run Over by a Gray Rhino”. These are:

1 ° Recognize the rhinoceros. Recognizing the existence of gray rhinos is a step aside when it comes along. But more than that, that’s why you can learn to see problems differently and transform them into an opportunity. So dare to ask uncomfortable questions. Hear, see & speak no evil is not a good idea.

2 ° Define the rhinoceros. After some practice you recognize a number of rhinos. And that can be very intense in itself. You can not take all problems into account at the same time. So you have to prioritize. But for that you have to define a scope of each rhino. The way you do this is important to let people respond.

3 ° Do not stand still. If you can not work out the big things you have to do in one step, do it in smaller steps. You may muddle on for a while, as long as this muddling helps you on your way to take action. If possible, make a plan in time. For example, on a personal level, you can change your seatbelt when you drive a car. Not every ride leads to an accident however, but it is always possible. Preparation is the key to success.

4 ° A crisis “is a terrible thing to waste”. Sometimes you can not get out of the way of a rhino and you will be trampled. Then it is important not to lie down but to get up, to carry out repair work, and where possible also to make improvements with respect to the old situation.

5 ° Stay downwind. The best leaders respond to a threat if it is still far away. Because they know that the costs and the chances of impact only increase with procrastination. In doing so, you must distance yourself from group thinking and other bias mentioned in the book. Unfortunately, not everyone follows president Kennedy’s advice “It’s time to fix the roof when the sun shines”.

6 ° Be a rhino spotter, become a rhino keeper. A person who sees a (obvious or not) great danger coming to the organization, that is ignored by others. Someone who speaks out loud when others are silent. That is where the first step to success begins. Then you have to get others to come along. Identifying a need is one thing, but the hard work lies in convincing and executing appropriate actions. You must therefore dare to go against the crowd. So you have to be a bit mad. But also courageous. Because it often requires a sacrifice of yourself.