In response to the Commission’s efforts to tackle COVID-19 disinformation, the S&D Group calls on social media platforms to take responsibility in the fight against the spread of lies and the attack on the EU’s values and democracies since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The Socialists and Democrats have for a long time pushed for the setting up of a special committee in the European Parliament on foreign interference. In tomorrow's Conference of Presidents, this will become a reality.
Kati Piri, S&D Group vice-president for foreign affairs, said:
“The disinformation campaigns around the Covid-19 pandemic confirm that there are foreign actors that want to undermine the EU by spreading propaganda, fear and conspiracy theories. These campaigns not only harm our values, but when related to public health they can be lethal. Websites or social media accounts linked to China and Russia have used the pandemic to create divisions in Europe, sowing doubts about the EU’s handling of the crisis and deflecting attention from their own struggles with the pandemic.
“Today’s communication by the European Commission is a first step ahead of the larger action expected before the end of the year to defend our democracies and electoral process. There is no doubt that we need tougher regulations on online platforms.
The Socialists and Democrats have been taking a strong stance on the need to counter foreign interference for a long time. We are glad that our call for a special European Parliament committee to investigate episodes of foreign interference was heard, with a decision expected at leader’s level in Parliament tomorrow.”
Birgit Sippel, S&D spokesperson for civil liberties, justice and home affairs, said:
“We are all well aware of the benefits and opportunities that social media platforms can bring to our daily lives, but the waves of disinformation since the Covid-19 crisis are at the same time a stark reminder of their potential pitfalls in spreading lies about the virus or policies against it. Such misinformation can easily jeopardise public health, our social cohesion and, thus, democracy as a whole.
“Unfortunately, however, there will always be a legal grey area when it comes to detecting misinformation. And if we intend to define what kind of information is false, we would also need to define what kind of information is right - which would mean the end of freedom of expression and freedom of the media. We also cannot accept giving such a role to private enterprises.
“What we need is much more transparency about how social media platforms display content to users and whether the goals are political or economic. The S&D Group therefore expects the Commission to promote transparency and underlines the urgent need for more control for users. We have serious concerns about the profit-driven motives of many of these platforms using sensationalist content to hook users and drive up revenues and thereby promote a vicious circle of disinformation.”