In the face of growing disinformation campaigns and targeted foreign interference, Renew Europe has adopted a detailed group position paper, containing a series of measures to create a clear European legal framework with robust safeguards and defence mechanisms.
The European answer to disinformation needs to be comprehensive, involving all key actors in this joint fight: EU institutions, public authorities, civil organisations, professional journalists, fact-checkers, researchers, online platforms and citizens. We must create legislation to fight disinformation effectively, ensure transparency and a publicly scrutinised role for online platforms, and at the same time educate citizens to detect disinformation, granting an independent media ecosystem and protecting our democracies against third countries and anti-system actors.
Moreover, we need modern regulation. Regulation is not about censorship or regulating free speech but about enforcing rules on what is illegal offline as well as online. We must regulate hate speech and discrimination for example, while protecting the most important freedom: the freedom of speech.
Above all, regulation means fighting organised malicious online behaviour. It is not up to politicians to decide what is truthful content and what is not, but politicians should legislate on intentional malicious behaviour. With these measures implemented, our Union will be better equipped to fight disinformation and strategically defend against disinformation campaigns that seek to divide and weaken us, both now and in the future.
On 23 September, the European Parliament launches a new Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union, including Disinformation. Renew Europe has pushed for the creation of a new special committee tackling disinformation and will within the Committee continue to be a strong force for a more ambitious EU action to eradicate disinformation.
Maite Pagazaurtundúa MEP (Ciudadanos, Spain), Vice-Chair in the Committee on Civil Liberties, member of the new Special Committee and responsible for drafting our Group’s paper on countering disinformation, commented;
"Disinformation has always existed, but the digital era has transformed it into a massive phenomenon that can affect the foundations of our reality like a missile. We must develop mechanisms for fair play. For example, ensuring the transparency of fact checkers by all means, including the possibility of creating certificates of quality, independence, neutrality. Elements that inform us about the authenticity of the information. Ideas can bring out the best in human beings, and also the worst. It is necessary in the digital world to adapt what has protected us in the analogue one. We have our own responsibilities: to be aware of disinformation, to protect critical thinking and the rules of the game."
Bart Groothuis MEP (VVD, Netherlands), member of the new Special Committee and responsible for drafting our Group’s paper on countering disinformation, said:
"Disinformation is an underestimated threat to our democracies, elections and societies and we are doing far too little to tackle it effectively. Malicious actors, deliberately intending to weaken and divide us by spreading false information, can currently act without fear of retribution. We need to make it more difficult, and crucially, more costly, for actors to use disinformation campaigns to harm us. In countering disinformation, social media platforms need to play a more active role, but so do policymakers and independent media. As a member of the special committee on foreign interference in all democratic processes in the EU, that launches tomorrow, I intend to put the fight against disinformation high on the European agenda."
Nathalie Loiseau MEP (La République en marche, France), Renew Europe’s coordinator of the new special committee:
"In Europe we protect many things: the quality of our food, consumers health, the privacy of internet users... But so far we haven’t paid sufficient attention to the protection of our democratic systems. We cannot afford to ignore any longer that our democratic values are under attack by determined and malign foreign actors: cyberattacks on public services or on electoral campaigns have increased dangerously. Disinformation on topics ranging from the COVID pandemic to women’s rights or geopolitical crises has spread to unprecedented levels. Digital platforms efforts of self-regulation have been helpful but not sufficient. We need to analyse in depth who is using our European space from outside with a will to weaken us. We need to learn lessons from what is taking place both in plain sight and behind the scenes. And we need to take action."