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Media freedom and pluralism: Launch of the media ownership monitoring project

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On 27 September, the Commission launched the EU-funded Euromedia Ownership Monitor. The monitor, coordinated by the Paris Lodron Universitat Salzburg, will provide a country-based database containing information on media ownership, as well as systematically assess relevant legal frameworks and identify possible risks to media ownership transparency. Values and Transparency Vice President Věra Jourová said: “It's getting increasingly difficult to understand who owns the media in the EU. This cannot be the case, because in democracy people deserve to know who provides them with information. This new tool will help inform the understanding of the media market and future policy initiatives.”

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton added: “As a key pillar of our democracies, it is crucial to address and highlight the existing threats to independent media. We remain determined to present new initiatives such as the Media Freedom Act and increase our support for projects promoting transparency in the sector.”

This new tool will inform policy and regulatory assessments and initiatives dedicated to supporting media freedom and pluralism. It will pinpoint where media ownership lies, making potential concentration issues more visible and thereby increase the understanding of the media market. The amount of EU support dedicated to the project is €1 million and the project is expected to last until September 2022. Furthermore, a second call for proposals will be published in the coming weeks.

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The beneficiaries of this pilot project have been selected following a call for proposals, targeting stakeholders working in the field of media freedom and pluralism at a European, regional, and local level. This initiative is part of a broader effort in the field of media freedom and pluralism, as outlined in the European Democracy Action Plan. More information on this and other calls related to the field of media, either ongoing or under preparation, is also available here.

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Cyber Security

Why cybersecurity in the EU should matter to you

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From stolen data to blocked hospital systems: cyberattacks can have perilous consequences. Learn more about cybersecurity and its importance, Society.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of the economy and society, creating opportunities as well as challenges. By 2030, 125 billion devices could be connected to the internet, up from 27 billion in 2021 while 90% of people over six are expected to be online. As cyberspace is by design interconnected and digital and physical are increasingly intertwined, new dangers emerge.

Definitions

  • Cyberattacks are attempts to misuse information, by stealing, destroying or exposing it and they aim to disrupt or destroy computer systems and networks
  • Cybersecurity includes information and communication security, operational technology and the IT platforms required to ensure the safety of digital systems
  • Cyberdefence includes cybersecurity and threat analyses and strategies to protect against threats directed at citizens, institutions and governments

Cyber threats in the EU: personal and societal costs

The use of digital solutions has long been on the rise and teleworking, online shopping and keeping in touch online rose sharply during lockdown. These solutions can benefit consumers and support the economy and the post-Covid recovery. However, there has been a corresponding increase in malicious cyber activities.

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Attackers may use phishing websites and emails with malicious links and attachments to steal banking information or blackmail organizations after blocking their IT systems and data.

A secure cyberspace is the basis for the EU's digital single market: enabling solutions and unlocking its full potential by making people confident online. The 2019 Digital Economy and Society Index showed that security concerns limited or prevented 50% of EU internet users from performing online activities. The 2020 index indicated  that 39% of EU citizens who used the internet experienced security-related problems.

Learn more about how to protect yourself from cybercrime.

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The damage caused by cyberattacks goes beyond the economy and finance, affecting the very democratic foundations of the EU and threatening the basic functioning of society.

Essential services and critical sectors such as transport, energy, health and finance, have become increasingly dependent on digital technologies. This, together with the increase in physical objects connected to the Internet of things, can have direct consequences, including making cybersecurity a matter of life and death.

From cyberattacks on hospitals, causing them to postpone urgent medical procedures, to attacks on power grids and water supply - attackers are threatening the supply of essential services. And as cars and homes become increasingly connected, they could be threatened or exploited in unforeseen ways.

Cyberattacks, deployed with for example disinformation, economic pressure and conventional armed attacks, are testing the resilience of democratic states and institutions, directly targeting peace and security in the EU.

Cybersecurity in the EU

Businesses and organisations in the EU spend 41% less on cybersecurity than their US counterparts. The European Union has been working to strengthen cybersecurity to allow the EU to become a global cyber player. MEPs recently called for common EU cyber defence capabilities and are working to ensure a high common level of cybersecurity in the EU.

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Pirates: Facebook outage could have been avoided

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Pirate MEPs agreed that yesterday's outage (4 October) of Facebook and other networks could have been avoided. The solution would have been interoperability: interconnection of individual networks managed by different providers. The European Pirates have been pushing for interoperability at the European level in the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Marcel Kolaja MEP, Czech vice president of the European Parliament & DMA shadow rapporteur in the Committee on the Internal Market (IMCO), said: "In technical terms, Facebook incorrectly updated their BGP records, making it impossible to route traffic to Facebook from anywhere on the Internet. They practically removed themselves from the Internet. To make matters worse, a lot of Internet services depend to a certain extent on Facebook. Including... Facebook itself. It was as if they had forgotten their keys and locked themselves out of their own home. This outage demonstrates the risks of the whole Internet being dependent on one company. That is another good reason why we need an interoperability obligation of core services in the Digital Markets Act."

Mikulá¹ Peksa MEP, chair of the European Pirates and member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy in the European Parliament, said: "If the network was decentralised and each of its nodes was managed by a different provider - like Mastodon, for example - something like this would not have happened. We are currently discussing the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act in the European Parliament. Apart from issues related to freedom of expression, which are mentioned most often, it also deals with technical issues such as requirements for crisis protocols among other things. One of our long-standing demands, which I managed to push into the ITRE committee report, is interoperability."

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Markéta Gregorová, MEP, member of the Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union, including Disinformation, said: "On Twitter, the outages were blamed on China in a tweet that went viral in the Czech republic after it was shared by a Czech journalist. It is a textbook example of a failure to verify the reliability of sources: it would have only taken a glance and a few seconds to see that the profile picture of the source of the accusations has a mangled name, the account was not verified, and the name does not match the so-called Twitter handle. Similar trolls, satire and deliberate hoaxes are becoming more and more common, especially in the context of elections, so it is important to check. It only takes a moment."

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Cyber Security

European Cybersecurity Month: ‘Think Before U Click'

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The ninth edition of the European Cybersecurity Month began on 1 October and will run for the entire month of October under the motto ‘Think Before U Click'. This is an annual awareness campaign organized by the Commission, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) and over 300 partners in the member states, including local authorities, governments, universities, think tanks, NGOs and professional associations. Hundreds of activities, such as conferences, workshops, training sessions, presentations, webinars and online campaigns, will take place across Europe this year to promote cybersecurity among citizens and organisations and to provide up-to-date online security information through awareness raising and sharing of good practices.

A Europe Fit for the Digital Age Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said: “We will not use technology if we don't trust it; and trust comes from feeling safe. That's why cybersecurity is really central to our digitalisation, and to the use of technology. Especially nowadays when due to the pandemic we have been doing so many things online: working, learning, shopping, and more. By adopting good cybersecurity habits, we are building a safe and secure digital life.”

Promoting our European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas said: “Cyber-attacks put at risk our businesses, our critical infrastructures, our data, the functioning of our democracies. Cyber criminals exploit the slightest vulnerability in our digital environment. The European Cybersecurity Month campaign aims at helping everyone acquire the necessary skills to shield ourselves and our way of life against cyber threats. The campaign's motto ‘Think Before U Click' is especially this year more relevant than ever.”

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Cyber awareness is one of the angles of the EU Cybersecurity Strategy announced in December last year. More information is available in this ENISA press release. Information about the events taking place across the member states is available in this interactive map, and awareness-raising material is available on the dedicated website. Follow the campaign on Twitter @CyberSecMonth with hashtags #CyberSecMonth and #ThinkB4Uclick, and on Facebook @CyberSecMonthEU.

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