European Commission Vice President V?ra Jourová has joined the chorus of those calling for tighter regulation of social media companies in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s ban from several platforms.
“Even though I believe President Trump’s irresponsible incitement to violence deserved action, it is clear that we cannot continue like this,” Jourová told Brussels Playbook on Wednesday. “The fact that they [Big Tech firms] can silence a sitting U.S. president based on unclear criteria and without oversight can be dangerous for free speech.”
Jourová advocated for “tougher regulation, more enforceable obligations and increased responsibility of digital players.”
The EU’s recently announced Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act “will increase accountability of online platforms and clarify the rules for taking down illegal content,” Jourová argued — but even if they are “ground-breaking proposals,” they will “need time to become a reality, and we need to act now.”
Her comments come after Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton argued in an op-ed for POLITICO that the DSA was the best tool to resolve some of the Big Tech issues highlighted in the wake of the Capitol riot.
Jourová said trust in governments had been eroded during the Trump years, and warned: “What happened in the U.S. has seeds in Europe, too. It can only be repaired if trust is restored — in science, in governments and in society.” She added: “Facts belong to everyone, opinion belongs to an individual. This distinction has been damaged.”
Among more “immediate steps” to reorganize democratic life digitally and “equip ourselves with better tools” to fight harmful content online, Jourová cited the European Democracy Action Plan, which calls for a “new pact against disinformation.” That means, Jourová said, that “we need accountability of algorithms and we need companies to stop shooting from the hip, but rather become part of a predictable and transparent system.”
Jourová, a Czech politician who lived under communism until her mid-20s, said that for her, the most important lesson learned in the wake of the Capitol riot was: “We have to act and fight both offline and online. We have to stop accepting attacks on values, rule of law, independent judges and media, fundamental rights and democracy as normal. We have to fight back.”
She warned: “We, the advocates of democracy, have been guilty of negligence and of a naïve belief that democracy together with its values and freedoms will defend itself. Democracy is fragile, prone to attacks from within and from outside.”
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