The European Union has called on US President Joe Biden to help craft a common settlement to harness the power of big tech companies like Facebook and Twitter and tackle the spread of fake news that is eating away at Western democracies.
In a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged the Biden administration to join forces against “the darker sides of the digital world”, which she said was in part behind the “shock” assault on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on January 6.
“The business model of online platforms has an impact not only on free and fair competition, but also on our democracies, our security and the quality of our information,” said von der Leyen. “That’s why we need to contain this immense power of large digital companies.”
She urged the White House to join the efforts of the 27-nation bloc, saying “together we could create a digital economy settlement that is valid worldwide” and would encompass data protection, privacy rules. and the security of critical infrastructure.
Von der Leyen said the EU wants the responsibility to lie with the tech giants, “it is clear that internet companies take responsibility for how they distribute, promote and remove content.”
In December, the European Commission proposed two new EU laws to better protect consumers and their rights online, make technology platforms more responsible and improve digital competition, building on data protection rules of the EU, which are among the strictest in the world.
“We want the platforms to be transparent about how their algorithms work,” said von der Leyen. “Because we cannot accept that decisions which have a huge impact on our democracy are taken by computer programs alone.”
Freedom of expression
Von der Leyen also referred to the decision taken earlier this month by Facebook and Twitter to cut former US President Donald Trump from their platforms for allegedly inciting an assault on the US Capitol, an unprecedented move. which highlighted the immense power of tech giants to regulate speech. .
“As tempting as it has been for Twitter to deactivate President Trump’s account, such serious interference with free speech should not be based solely on company rules,” she said. “There must be a framework of laws for such far-reaching decisions.”
Trump’s permanent suspension from Twitter and Facebook prompts EU member Hungary to impose its own measures to regulate social media companies.
Hungary’s justice minister said on Tuesday that big tech companies could face regulation from the Hungarian government for what she called “deliberate and ideological” censorship on social media.
In a Facebook post, Justice Minister Judit Varga wrote that the government would take action to impose restrictions on tech giants who she says arbitrarily silence users of online platforms, including online platforms. government heads of state accounts – a reference to decisions by Twitter and Facebook to permanently suspend Trump after his supporters mounted an assault on the U.S. capital.
Varga called for the “transparent and auditable functioning” of tech companies, and said she would submit a bill on the issue to the Hungarian parliament in the spring to counter what she called their “systematic abuse of freedom of movement”. ‘expression”.
The next parliamentary election in Hungary is scheduled for 2022. Recent polls have shown a close race between the ruling Fidesz party and a coalition of six opposition parties.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a Trump ally, has been accused of overseeing the consolidation of the country’s media in the hands of business interests linked to his party.
Opposition parties have used social media to reach out to potential voters amid a lack of coverage in Hungary’s public media. A 2018 report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe found that the national elections that year “were characterized by a pervasive overlap between state and ruling party resources” and by media bias.
Last week, Varga claimed that tech companies “limit the visibility of Christian, conservative and right-wing views” and that “the power groups behind the global tech giants” were able to decide elections. She alleged that she had personally been “banned from the shadows” by Facebook, a term referring to social media platforms limiting the visibility of users’ profiles or posts without their knowledge.
A representative for Facebook told local media that the company did not interfere with Varga’s account. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press news agency.