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One of the most controversial and widely-criticized news items in recent weeks was the National Security Council’s adoption of the Action Procedure to Tackle Disinformation (the “Procedure”) on October 6, published in the Official State Gazette on November 5 (Order PCM/1030/2020). The Procedure has the following objectives:

  • Identifying and defining the national security system’s bodies, agencies and authorities.
  • Setting levels for prevention, detection, early warning, analysis, response and assessment.
  • Describing the specific actions for each level in the fight against disinformation.
  • Defining the information-sharing mechanisms established at strategic, operational and technical levels.
  • Determining the mechanisms to assess the Procedure’s implementation and operation.
  • Defining a methodology to identify, assess and handle disinformation events.
  • Suggesting a framework and an ad hoc task force to draft and review a national strategy to tackle disinformation.

The Procedure establishes a group of bodies and actors tasked with tackling disinformation, including: (i) the National Security Council; (ii) the Situation Committee; (iii) the State Secretariat for Communication; (iv) the Permanent Commission against Disinformation; (v) competent public authorities; and (vi) the private sector and civil society. Most are political bodies, which has attracted criticism for giving all decision-making powers to government bodies.

Additionally, the Procedure sets four activation levels to (i) detect disinformation campaigns and assess them; and (ii) assist in crisis management where these campaigns could have an impact:

  • Level 1: a technical action and detection level tasked with issuing early warnings and notifying the reference community.
  • Level 2: tasked with supporting coordination, synchronizing and prioritizing efforts in the fight against disinformation.
  • Level 3: tasked with making decisions and setting political and strategic objectives to tackle disinformation campaigns.
  • Level 4: a political management level in the framework of the national security system.

The Procedure aims to guarantee Spain’s involvement in the various instruments provided in the 2018 European Action Plan against Disinformation, but it has been subject to a lot of criticism for its effects on freedom of information and freedom of the press. Although the European Union confirmed that it will monitor the Procedure’s implementation, the European Commission stated that there is no reason to believe that the Procedure violates freedom of the press.

Author: Ane Alonso

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