New study on the Legal Framework on the Dissemination of Disinformation

Report for the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.
J. van Hoboken, N. Appelman, R. Ó Fathaigh, P. Leerssen, T. McGonagle, N. van Eijk & N. Helberger

The study, commissioned by the Dutch government, focuses on the legal framework governing the dissemination of disinformation, in particular through Internet services. The study provides an extensive overview of relevant European and Dutch legal norms relating to the spread of online disinformation, and recommendations are given on how to improve this framework. Additionally, the study includes an analysis of the relevant legal framework in 6 different countries (U.K., U.S., France, Germany, Sweden and Canada).  

The report makes clear how the freedom of expression runs as a central theme through the legal framework, both forming the outer limit for possible regulation and a legal basis to create new regulation (e.g. protecting pluralism). The legal framework governing disinformation online is shown to be very broad, encompassing different levels of regulation, shifting depending on the context and already regulating many different types of disinformation. Further, oversight seems to be fragmented with many different supervisory authorities involved but limited cooperation. Based on this analysis, the report offers several recommendations, such as on the use of disinformation not as a legal term but a policy term, on negotiating the tensions on the different policy levels, on the regulation of internet intermediaries including transparency obligations and on increased cooperation between the relevant supervisory authorities.

Previously, the interim report focusing on political advertising was published in late 2019. Both these studies have been carried out in the context of the research initiative on the Digital Transition of Decision-Making at the Faculty of Law of the University of Amsterdam, focusing on questions related to AI and public values, data governance and online platforms.

15 May 2020