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13 Oct 2021 - 10:02
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Towards a European Multistakeholder Approach to Counter Disinformation

Disinformation continues to exacerbate existing political polarizations with effects ranging from discrediting measures against the COVID-19 pandemic to inciting mass violence against the very institutions of democracy itself.

Governments, industry and civil society are struggling to find effective ways to respond to this challenge. Disinformation is a field that lacks consensus for a common unilateral solution due to its enormously complex nature, the wide range of actors involved, and the dilemmas it presents across many issues, such as security and human rights.

Nonetheless, ‘rules of the road’ are needed. Given the relative success that cyber norms have had in establishing a common standard of acceptable behavior, this report asks what kind of international norms can be developed to counter disinformation. And finally, how can these norms be advanced?

This report addresses these questions by proposing:

  • a government-to-government “big N Norm” proposal based on noninterference and covert election interference
  • a European industry charter of “small n norms” or standards for social media platforms
  • a European coregulation model to guide the development of these standards from formulation to implementation
  • a Disinformation Sharing and Analysis Center (DISINFO-ISAC) at the European level to operationalize the coregulation model and facilitate threat information sharing and capacity building among social media platforms, and with governments and civil society.

These proposals come at a time when the European self-regulatory approach towards social media companies’ responsibility is shifting towards coregulation. They would therefore inform and strengthen the European Democracy Action Plan and contribute towards a much-needed community of trust in countering disinformation.

The research for and production of this report has been conducted within the PROGRESS research framework agreement. Responsibility for the contents and for the opinions expressed, rests solely with the authors and does not constitute, nor should it be construed as, an endorsement by the Netherlands Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense.

Cover image adapted from 7CO’s “Kundgebung (3) Protest against corona measures” and licensed under CS BY 2.0. Some rights reserved.


  • Louk Faesen, Strategic Analyst at the Cyber Policy and Resilience Program of The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
  • Alexander Klimburg, Director of the Cyber Policy and Resilience Program at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS) and director of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace Initiative and Secretariat
  • Simon van Hoeve, Assistant Analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
  • Tim Sweijs, Director of Research at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)