The European Parliament held a debate on the role of online platforms and democracy on Wednesday, February 10. Several MEPs called on the bloc to increase its efforts to regulate content being shared online in the wake of a surge of fake news relating to coronavirus.
The EU is currently working on a Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA) to tackle misinformation and online hate.
French MEP Gilles Lebreton has questioned the intentions behind the move and accused the bloc of a “double discourse” and trying to shift the “power of censorship” from online platforms to the EU.
In an online blog, the member of the National Front in France, wrote: “Unfortunately, as is often the case with the EU, what results from his work of reflection is worrying.
“The European Parliament has a double discourse: under the pretext of wanting to prevent platforms from continuing their arbitrary actions, it wants to transfer their power of censorship to the Commission in Brussels.
“Many MEPs have thus explained that the EU must regulate freedom of expression on the Internet in order to censor hate speech and fake news.”
Mr Lebreton said he would oppose any move to transfer powers to the EU and called for an independent panel regulated content online – not Brussels.
He added: “The future of freedom of expression on the internet is therefore very uncertain.
“With the Identity and Democracy group, I will endeavour to convince a majority of MEPs to vote for a text tearing away from the platforms their power of censorship, but resisting the temptation to transfer it to the Commission.
“In a system genuinely respectful of freedom of expression, only an independent national judiciary should have the right to make the final decision to remove content from the internet.”
Commission Vice President Věra Jourová said that the proposed Digital Services Act aims to increase the accountability of online platforms
She said: “We need to bring order to the digital expression of democracy and to end the digital Wild West.”
During the debate, Estonian MEP Marina Kaljurand said the existing measures against disinformation and hate speech are “insufficient to counter the assault on our democracy”.
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Firms including Facebook and Google signed the EU’s code of practice to tackle the spread of disinformation.
European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova said: “The pandemic has become a breeding ground for false claims and conspiracy theories and platforms are important amplifiers of this type of messages.
“We must continue working together to improve our fight with disinformation, but we need more transparency and better effort from the online platforms.”
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)