The topical debate of this European Parliament session focused on the issue of hate speech, populism and fake news on social media, with the Council and the Commission presenting their proposals for an EU response.

GUE/NGL MEP Martina Michels cautioned against over-regulation to stem the growth of fake news and hate speech:  

“Fake news can influence elections and ultimately destabilise democracy. On the other hand, the desire for regulation has led to some absurd proposals including the blocking of the internet or the mandatory use of real names. It is naive to think that over-regulation is the solution.”

“The most appropriate measures should include greater media savviness, independent monitoring, and transparent moderation of comments without leaving it to the goodwill of Facebook & co.”
“The causes of populism and hate speech are not on the internet. They are found within societies and therefore change should begin there,” the German MEP said.

Cypriot MEP Takis Hadgigeorgiou pointed the finger at politicians for fomenting the phenomenon of fake news:

“Politicians bear responsibility over fake news because many of them prefer to lie rather than tell the public the uncomfortable truth. There are politicians very close to the media and this leads to corruption and distortion of the truth.”

“Some politicians feed on this phenomenon when instead they should be standing for truth and be prepared to face up to accusations.  It is our role to educate the public to spot the myths and lies, which are hard to erase.”

Meanwhile, Greek MEP Kostadinka Kuneva said that fake news are a product of the democratic deficit in our societies:

“We see fake news and hate speech gaining ground in places where there is no transparency. What happens inside the Commission? We do not really know. How does the Eurogroup makes its decisions? We do not know either. The same goes with the European Central Bank or the IMF.”

“This lack of transparency is what ordinary citizens have to contend with. Lies and fake news thrive in situations where there is a lack of transparency, poor education and economic disparity. This is ultimately about the state of our democracies and the right of citizens to know the truth.”

Lastly, Italian MEP Curzio Maltese puts the blame on the internet’s monopolies:

“The internet revolution has brought monopolies that dominate the market and they are unregulated. A small number of players like Google and Facebook control 90 per cent of the network. They are not accountable for what they publish, they do not produce content and they do not pay taxes. This comes at the expense of independent journalists.”

“We could intervene but we have no means to do it. The Commission has refused to change the E-Commerce Directive, which for the last 17 years has shown how scandalously inadequate it is. I suspect that they just want to talk about politics and have no interest in defending the interests of citizens,” Maltese concluded.

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