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Czech fake news watchdog kicks off operations

Associated Press logo Associated Press 1/01/2017

PRAGUE — A Czech unit set up to combat fake news ahead of the country's two crucial elections starts operations on Sunday.

The Center Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats, an analytical section of the Interior Ministry, plans to rebut disinformation that could be spread with the aim of manipulating elections by what the counter-intelligence community believes are Russian-backed websites.

Czechs will likely pick their lawmakers in October. The presidential election is coming up in early 2018.

President Milos Zeman, known for his pro-Russian stance, likened the ministry's efforts to censorship in his annual Christmas speech. But the Interior Ministry says that its new section has neither "a button to turn off the internet" nor the right to remove content from the cyberspace.

Zeman, 72, has yet to announce whether he plans to run for re-election.

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