With critical national elections only months away, anxiety is building that Italy will be the next target of a destabilizing campaign of fake news and propaganda, prompting the leader of the country’s governing party to call on Facebook and other social media companies to police their platforms. “We ask the social networks, and especially Facebook, to help us have a clean electoral campaign,” Matteo Renzi, the leader of the Democratic Party, said in an interview on Thursday. “The quality of the democracy in Italy today depends on a response to these issues.” In a global atmosphere already thick with suspicion of Russian meddling in elections in the United States, France and Germany, as well as in the British referendum to leave the European Union and the Catalan independence movement in Spain, many analysts consider Italy to be the weak link in an increasingly vulnerable European Union.
No one in Italy is more worried than the governing Democratic Party. In recent days, its members have made an orchestrated attempt to focus the attention of the country — and of powerful social media platforms like Facebook — on a misinformation campaign that they believe is devised to damage one of the last major center-left governments standing in Europe.
Mr. Renzi, a wily political operator who partly blames online misinformation campaigns and fake news for the failure of a referendum that forced his resignation in December, is not only seeking to protect himself, but also to go on the offensive.