Photo by Guillaume Périgois on Unsplash

European Parliamentary Elections Misinformation Tracking Center

By Sara Badilini, Leonie Pfaller, and Giulia Pozzi | Last updated June 4, 2024


During June 6-9, 2024, some 373 million citizens from the 27 member states of the European Union will have a chance to vote in the European Parliamentary Elections. 

The European Parliament, part of the EU legislature, is the only political body of the multinational organization that is directly elected by EU citizens. The European Parliament has far-reaching powers, including the election of the President of the European Commission and decision-making authority over the EU budget (189 billion euros in 2024.) Together with the Council of Ministers, it adopts laws in 85 policy areas, including agriculture, energy, transportation, the environment, and data protection. For example, the 2022 Digital Services Act required 19 online platforms and search engines, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Google Search, to comply with stricter rules on content moderation, advertising, algorithm transparency, and the protection of minors. 

In the weeks preceding the vote, NewsGuard has seen a surge in EU-related false claims online — some new, and some recycled. The claims target EU institutions, policies, and representatives, aiming at sowing distrust among voters and delegitimizing the vote. In May 2024, EU-related misinformation reached its highest level since May 2023, accounting for 15 percent of online misinformation, according to the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO). 

NewsGuard has found that false and misleading narratives gaining significant traction have taken aim at the following:

  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
  • EU laws, regulations, and proposals
  • Agriculture in the EU
  • EU voting procedures

This page includes summaries and debunks of some of the top election-related myths identified by NewsGuard’s team of journalists. NewsGuard will continue to track false and misleading information targeting the EU, including after the elections, and will update this page accordingly.

Misinformation About European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

False allegations about European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who as head of the EU executive is one of the most prominent figures in EU politics, have been gaining traction throughout the year. The claims, which range from accusing her family of Nazi ties to being in the pocket of big pharma, have made her a major target of disinformation narratives in Europe, comparable to figures such as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and U.S. billionaire philanthropist George Soros. For example:

MYTH: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Is Related to a Nazi Official

Contrary to social media claims, the German president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is not related to the Nazi official Freiherr Joachim Otto Georg Dietrich Adolf von der Leyen. Although they have the same last name, there is no family relationship between the two. Indeed, von der Leyen’s maiden name is Ursula Gertrud Albrecht.

The false claim that Ursula von der Leyen is related to Freiherr von der Leyen, a Nazi administrator in occupied Poland and Czechoslovakia — which emerged as early as 2022 — has recently resurfaced on X and Facebook.

A March 2024 investigation of archival documents by French news agency Agence France-Presse showed that Ursula von der Leyen’s ancestors are not connected to the Nazi official. Ursula von der Leyen’s father was Ernst Albrecht, who lived between 1930 and 2014, and was the former Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, as confirmed by the press office of the German representation of the European Commission to the German fact-checker Correctiv.

Ernst Albrecht was the son of Karl Eduard Albrecht, a doctor and psychologist from northern Germany, who lived between 1902 and 1965. There is no connection between Albrecht and Nazis, Belgian magazine reported.

(NewsGuard clients can read the full Misinformation Fingerprint here, as well as access other similar false claims.)

Misinformation About EU Laws, Regulations, and Proposals

For years, social media users have spread false claims about EU-wide regulations, often misrepresenting the scope or  impact of actual  laws. Ahead of the European Parliament elections, some previously debunked claims about EU regulations have resurfaced and received wide attention. For example:

MYTH: The European Union Is Forcing its Citizens to Eat insects

Contrary to persistent claims on  social media since January 2023, the European Union is not forcing its citizens to eat insect-based food, and residents can tell if a food contains insects. Indeed, foods containing products derived from insects must clearly list these ingredients on their labels, according to EU food law.

In January 2023, the European Commission, the European Union’s governing body, authorized the use of a powder derived from house crickets in foods and allowed the marketing of “lesser Mealworm” larvae (also known as Alphitobius diaperinus) in frozen, paste, dried and powdered form. The EU had previously authorized other types of food derived from insects. However, laws on insect-based foods, published in the Official Journal of the European Union, protect consumers from eating this type of product without their knowledge.

The EU imposes rules on the labeling of food products, which must clearly list all ingredients, and products containing insects must disclose this information to consumers, a representative of the European Commission told Agence France-Presse in January 2023. “It must be clearly indicated in the list of ingredients that this ingredient is found in the product,” the representative added.

(NewsGuard clients can read the full Misinformation Fingerprint here, as well as access other similar false claims.)

Misinformation About Agriculture in the EU

In the wake of EU-wide farmer protests in late 2023 and early 2024, new claims appeared and older claims resurfaced. NewsGuard identified an increasing number of these false narratives about the EU’s legislation and overall position on agriculture ahead of the Parliamentary elections. For example:

 MYTH: The European Union plans to ban animal farming

Contrary to claims by Italian right-wing news sites and social media users on Facebook and X, the European Union has not issued a directive that will “forbid animal farming” and cause European farmers to go bankrupt. 

As Italian fact-checker reported, the EU has not approved any measures banning animal farming. The false narrative misrepresents a revised Industrial Emissions Directive, aiming to “combat air, water and soil pollution from large agro-industrial installations,” according to a European Parliament press release.

The directive, which was adopted by the European Parliament on March 12, 2024, and is awaiting ratification by member states, calls for industrial facilities to meet more rigid pollution standards. Starting in 2030, these rules will apply to a larger number of pig and poultry farms, which will face penalties if they do not comply. Nowhere does the directive call for a ban on animal farming.

(NewsGuard clients can read the full Misinformation Fingerprint here, as well as access other similar false claims.)

Misinformation About Voting Procedures

In the weeks preceding the Parliament elections, misinformation regarding voting procedures in the EU have gained traction across social media platforms.The EU elections are organized at the national level, in accordance with the electoral regulations in force in each country. This means that some countries allow mail-in voting while others do not, some countries make voting optional, others mandate it. This has given fodder to various myths. For example:

MYTH: Germans were given mail-in ballots with punched holes and cut corners to invalidate their votes

Contrary to claims by German social media users in April and May 2024, paper ballots with a punched hole or a cut corner are valid, and do not disqualify the votes of Germans using these ballots in the European Parliament elections in June.

On May 8, 2024, the picture of a ballot paper with a hole in the top corner was shared in the Telegram group “Soldiers & Reservists,” which included superimposed text that read: “So folks, I wisely applied for a postal vote and received the documents yesterday!!! As you can see, punched, invalid from the start!!!” The same image was shared on Facebook and  TikTok.

In fact, ballots with cut-off corners or holes are required in Germany. They serve as aids for visually impaired people, enabling them to vote independently with the help of special voting templates, AFP reported. Moreover, the image shared on Telegram, TikTok, and Facebook does not show a ballot for the upcoming EU elections but a ballot used for a state election in Germany in 2021.

(NewsGuard clients can read the full Misinformation Fingerprint here, as well as access other similar false claims.)