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Commission stress tests platforms’ election readiness under the Digital Services Act

The Commission has conducted a simulation exercise with designated platforms, Digital Services Coordinators, and civil society organisations to test their readiness against election manipulation and interference in relation to the European election.

Commission stress tests platforms’ election readiness under the Digital Services Act

The Stress Test featured a series of fictitious scenarios based on past experiences with attempts of election manipulation and interference, as well as cyber-enabled information manipulation and hybrid threats. The aim was to test platforms’ readiness to address manipulative behaviour that could occur in the run-up to the elections, in particular the different manipulative tactics, techniques and procedures. This included amongst others: 

  • Information manipulation enabled by ‘deep fakes’ or other uses of Artificial Intelligence to distort and manipulate audio-visual content. 
  • Information manipulation through coordinated inauthentic behaviour.  
  • Attempts of suppression of voices, including through harassment and threats online. 
  • Intentional spread of false information on the electoral process to mislead voters.  
  • Online incitement to violence based on manipulated information. 
  • Cyber-enabled activity that is used for information manipulation. 

Based on the scenario, the participants: 

  • Tested the measures, procedures, and structures the platforms have in place for the elections of the European Parliament in different scenarios; 
  • Detected gaps and areas of improvement, in light of the DSA Election guidelines issued by the Commission, and identified how the provisions and legal obligations therein may be utilised by different stakeholder groups; 
  • Identified gaps and areas of improvement to further enhance and strengthen cooperation between the participating stakeholders. 

Safeguarding the integrity of the 2024 European Elections is a key priority for the European Commission. With the Digital Services Act, the European Union has a strong and unprecedented instrument to mitigate risks on Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and Search Engines (VLOSEs) in view of the upcoming European elections. The success of the Digital Services Act depends on a range of stakeholders, including VLOPs and VLOSEs, Digital Services Coordinators – the national regulators – and civil society organisations. All stakeholders need to actively cooperate and be aware of each other’s roles, instruments and processes under the DSA.   

The Stress Test on elections’ readiness is part of a broader range of actions that the EU and Member States are taking to ensure the integrity of elections and reassure citizens that the European elections are free and fair, despite persistent attempts to manipulate civic discourse and the information environment by different actors, including foreign state actors.  

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