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EU divided over handling of migrants, refugee crisis deepens

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By NewsGram Staff-Writer

Roszke, Hungary: As the number of migrants entering Hungary through the Balkans saw a record increase, Austria suspended the cross-border train services on Thursday.

Photo Credit: www.cnbc.com
Photo Credit: www.cnbc.com

Germany which has already accepted around 450,000 migrants this year, has warned that the EU’s efforts to distribute 160,000 new arrivals among the member states is only “a drop in the ocean”, according to a report in the Times of India.

Germany has urged the 28-nation group to go further. German Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said: “The distribution of 160,000 refugees across Europe is a first step if one wants to be polite.”

Meanwhile, the eastern members of the EU, as well as those in the frontline of the migrant influx, are putting forward stiff opposition to the EU’s migrant-distribution plans. They have refused to accept any binding quota from EU.

In light of the refugee crisis, Romania President Klaus Iohannis has said: “It is inappropriate to talk about mandatory quotas, calculated on an extremely bureaucratic basis, almost like an accountancy exercise I might say, without consulting member states,” as quoted in a TOI report.

The Greek island of Lesbos has registered around 22,500 refugees since Monday evening. In Hungary, 3,321 refugees rushed to the country on Thursday before a strict anti-migrant law comes into effect.

Austria had to suspend its train operations to Hungary due to massive overcrowding. The UN refugee agency has warned that at least 42,000 refugees are likely to enter Hungary next week.

EU interior ministers are scheduled to meet on Monday to discuss the easing out of the mounting pressure on the border members by distributing the refugees across the block.

EU lawmakers have called for an international conference with the United Nations, US, and Arab countries to discuss the issue of migration amid the Syrian refugee crisis.

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EU Authorities Direct Tech Giants To Submit Reports Regarding ‘Fake News’

U.S. technology giants have committed millions of dollars, tens of thousands of employees and what they say are their best technical efforts into fighting fake news

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European Commissioner for Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip, left, and European Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourova participate in a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels. VOA

European Union (EU) authorities want internet companies including Google, Facebook and Twitter to file monthly reports on their progress eradicating “fake news” campaigns from their platforms ahead of elections next year.

Officials from the EU’s executive Commission unveiled the measures Wednesday as part of an action plan to counter disinformation in the lead up to the continent-wide vote in the spring.

The internet companies will have to submit their reports from January until May, when hundreds of millions of people in 27 EU member countries are scheduled to vote for 705 lawmakers in the bloc’s parliament.

The Commission singled out Russia.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech, Russia, Sheryl Sandberg, EU
An advertisement in The New York Times is displayed on Sunday, March 25, 2018, in New York. Facebook’s CEO apologized for the Cambridge Analytica scandal with ads in multiple U.S. and British newspapers. VOA

“There is strong evidence pointing to Russia as a primary source of disinformation in Europe,” said Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip.

Many EU member countries have taken action to combat disinformation, but now “we need to work together and coordinate our efforts,” he said.

Russian authorities have repeatedly rejected Western accusations of sponsoring disinformation campaigns and described them as part of Western efforts to smear the country.

Other measures include a new “rapid alert system,” beefing up budgets, and adding expert staff and data analysis tools.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and browser maker Mozilla are the companies that so far have signed up to a voluntary EU code of conduct on fighting disinformation.

Fake News, EU
We don’t remove content for being false: Facebook. Flickr Common

They’ll be expected to report on how they’re carrying out commitments they made under the code, including their work on making political advertising more transparent and how many fake and bot accounts they have identified and shut down. They’ll also provide updates on their cooperation with fact-checkers and academic researchers to uncover disinformation campaigns.

Google, which declined to comment, has tightened up requirements for political ads in the EU, including requiring information on who paid for them and for buyers to verify their identities. Facebook, which did not respond to a request for comment, did the same for political ads in Britain.

Also Read: WhatsApp Partners With DEF To Train Community Leaders in Order To Tackle Fake News

U.S. technology giants have committed millions of dollars, tens of thousands of employees and what they say are their best technical efforts into fighting fake news, propaganda and hate that has proliferated on their digital platforms.

“We need to see the internet platforms step up and make some real progress on their commitments,” said Julian King, the EU security commissioner. If there’s not enough headway, the Commission would consider other options including regulation, he said. (VOA)