European Parliament Freedom, democracy and transparency

European Pirates: Pandemic situation must not lead to suspension of freedom of speech

Markus Spiske

17 April 2020 – Today, the European Pirates voted against a European Parliament Resolution on the corona virus pandemic which calls on social network operators to proactively find and “stop disinformation and hate speech”. Upload filters used by Facebook and other operators fundamentally threaten the freedom of expression on the Internet. Calling for such censorship is absolutely unacceptable, especially at the moment when accurate and timely information is crucial in order to successfully overcome the current situation.

“It is outrageous that some politicians use this pandemic and crisis situation to pursue their long term goal to silence people. Hundreds of thousands of people protested on the streets against upload filters just last year. Now, when the situation is critical, old ideas to restrict freedom of expression are coming back. We are determined to fight COVID-19. For this reason it is indispensable that citizens have access to accurate and verified information. We should work towards developing and promoting trusted sources, instead of calling for automated measures for social media, which are technically unreliable, because they (would) also supress essential legitimate information,” said Vice-President of the European Parliament Marcel Kolaja.

“To safeguard freedom of speech Facebook must not be put in charge of deciding what we can say and read online. Believing that Internet corporations could magically ‘stop disinformation and hate speech’ demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding. Media literacy, education and civil society initiatives are the right approach to tackle these challenges, not censorship”, explains Pirate Member of the European Parliament Patrick Breyer.

“The Covid-19 virus is one of humanity’s most serious challenges. Its effects will last with us for years to come. The social and societal implications of mass unemployment, mass bankruptcies and mass surveillance will make us a more divided, unsafe and weaker society. National leadership is not merely enough to stop this. It takes supra-national and European common decisions to fight this virus. This non-binding resolution does little to support the people in need; instead it creates an open door for mass surveillance by digital monopolies and fails to call for the equal distribution of the financial burdens stemming from the crisis,” comments Markéta Gregorová.

“While I welcome the clear denouncement on rise of authoritarian regimes in Europe, I am really disappointed both by the suggestions to proactively monitor social media and by the absence of clear commitment to saving the economy in another “whatever it takes” move. We are seriously facing a possibility of destruction of the monetary union – and I would expect much bigger call on solidarity, especially on the countries like Germany and Netherlands benefited most from the European integration”, adds Mikuláš Peksa.

The European Parliament resolution “calls on social media companies to proactively take the necessary measures to stop disinformation and hate speech regarding the coronavirus”.

Photo by markus spiske

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