S&Ds call for immediate action against online threat to elections

On the occasion of the conference “Election Interference in the Digital Age”, taking place in Brussels today and tomorrow, S&Ds repeat their calls for immediate action against the threat of digital manipulation. Speakers at the conference include the former Secretary-General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen, EU Commissioners Mariya Gabriel, Julian King, and Věra Jourová, as well as Bogusław Liberadzki, vice-president of the European Parliament and Member of the S&D Group, and Avaaz-founder Ricken Patel.

S&D Group president Udo Bullmann said:

“We welcome the fact that, following our constant pressure over the last months, the issue of potential digital manipulation of the European elections is now at the top of the agenda. We need to protect the integrity of elections from online interferences; otherwise, our democracy is at stake and with it our liberal way of life. However, time is running and we need to make sure that talks are actually followed by actions. If we really want to make a difference, we need to get to the core of the problem, namely the algorithms that are able to read our citizens like open books and can thus be abused to manipulate them by spreading hatred and lies.

“The S&D Group demands immediate action from the companies that have built their business model based on such algorithms, like Facebook. The social network has to be the first to come forward with proposals on how exactly they are going to prevent online interferences at the next European elections. This is what we make clear in a resolution that we have pushed for and that will be voted on in next week’s plenary session in Strasbourg.

“A recent study on the Swedish elections conducted jointly by Oxford and Lund Universities has shown that the problem remains extremely virulent. According to the scientists’ findings, one of every three links with political hashtags shared by Swedish social media users contained junk news, with 20 percent of this junk news being of foreign origin.

“Facebook cannot continue to make millions and millions of dollars with a business model that has been and will again be misused to attack our democracies. Seeing that there is not a single representative of Facebook participating in this conference today, sheds a light on the fact that we are still far from a solution.”

More information on the conference:

https://ec.europa.eu/epsc/events/election-interference-digital-age-building-resilience-cyber-enabled-threats_en

Joint study by Oxford and Lund Universities:

https://comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk/research/sweden-election/