Members of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group in the European Parliament called on the European Commission to tackle the spread of fake news on the internet.
Ahead of a high-level discussion on fake news and hate speech at the European Parliament in Brussels, S&D Group Vice President responsible for the digital policies Josef Weidenholzer, said more and more people are getting their information about the world primarily or even exclusively from social media.
“Already we have seen that fabricated stories posing as credible journalism, so-called fake news, can spread rapidly on social media channels,” he said. “This is a growing concern across the EU and a particular concern when fake news is spread ahead of elections – threatening the democratic process. We are calling on the European Commission to come forward with proposals to fight back against fake news and to strengthen effective media work. We want to see common rules across the EU, to crack down on fake news and give business legal certainty and ensure that companies fulfil their liabilities.”
In turn, S&D Group Vice President responsible for tackling extremism Tanja Fajon said the spread of fake news goes hand-in-hand with the increase in hate speech online. “With people getting information solely from those that share similar beliefs or political viewpoints, we are getting a deepening separation and greater vitriol between opposing sides of the political debate. This combined with the anonymity of posting online is causing a huge increase in violent, racist and sexist abuse online.”
Fajon also said social media companies must do more to tackle this type of hate speech – removing illegal content and shutting down accounts of those responsible.
“We must protect free speech but that does not mean allowing threating or abusive to spread.”