11 June 2020
Citizens themselves must be able to decide which information sources they consume
In reaction to plans of the European Commission, published on 10 June, the ECR Group in the European Parliament warned against curtailing European citizens’ freedom of expression and asks the Institutions to strike the right balance in Brussels’ efforts to counter disinformation. According to the ECR Group, one of the lessons learned from the Covid-19 crisis is that no one is infallible. There have been many communication mistakes by everyone. Fact checking companies have the potential to also be wrong. With such companies becoming the factual authority when it comes to information, it could further exacerbate the distrust towards public institutions. The ECR is of the opinion, that it should be safeguarded that - in the very end - it is the citizens themselves who decide which sources of information they consume.
Nicola Procaccini, ECR Coordinator in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in the European Parliament and Member of the future special committee on disinformation, said:
“The European Union is experiencing an unprecedented crisis of credibility. Since the Brexit victory in 2016, many governments, as well as the EU institutions, have blamed this lack of credibility on disinformation campaigns by external and internal agents. There is no doubt that such disinformation exists. In fact, it has always existed. However, our democracies were already aware of
this when the European Union established freedom of expression as one of its core values.
“Member States have strong mechanisms to combat disinformation when it endangers the health and safety of their citizens. The ECR believes in freedom of expression, which means that in the very end, it must be the citizens who decide which sources of information they want to consume.
“Censorship would be unacceptable in democracies. In addition, although we have nothing against news verification companies, to us, it seems dangerous that these companies receive public aid, because then they will become dependent on the Government. We also reject the idea that these companies become a factual authority when it comes to information, as they are private companies with their own interests. The final decisions should ultimately be taken by the relevant public authorities.
“The best way to tackle disinformation is to regain the credibility of institutions. The notion that everyone - except governments themselves and the mainstream media - are deemed blameworthy or censorable will not serve to restore confidence in our institutions. The Covid-19 crisis has taught us that no one is infallible; there have been many communication mistakes by everyone. Blaming citizens and social media for misinformation during the pandemic could further exacerbate the feeling of distrust towards public institutions.”
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