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"Fake news" strategy needs to be based on real evidence, not assumptions

26 April 2018
by eub2 -- last modified 26 April 2018

Today, 26 April 2018, the European Commission adopted a Communication on "tackling online disinformation". European Digital Rights (EDRi), the Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties), and Access Now will jointly respond by issuing a joint shadow report in the coming weeks.


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"First we have to understand the problem we face: the real effect of fake news. For that, we need research and data. Liberties urges policy makers to refrain from placing disproportionate limits on free speech and privacy. Doing so will not solve the problem of fake news, but make the situation worse," said Eva Simon, advocacy officer for freedom of expression at Liberties.

"Good policy is based on evidence. For the moment, we have different initiatives from the European Commission that do not even agree on how to define the problem being addressed," said Maryant Fernández Pérez, Senior Policy Advisor at European Digital Rights (EDRi).

"Policy makers should move away from generic and misleading actions under the false umbrella term of 'fake news'. Access Now urges all actors to adopt, strengthen and respect enforceable privacy rules around online tracking which can solve challenges in the information ecosystem including the spreading of misinformation and profiling of users," added Fanny Hidvégi, European Policy Manager at Access Now.

We urge the European Commission not to rush into taking binding measures regarding "fake news" or "online disinformation" but rather, take the expertise of civil liberties and digital rights experts into account. Liberties, EDRi and Access Now highlight that any and all measures aimed at addressing online disinformation should:

  • have a clear and narrow problem definition;
  • be based on clear empirical data of actual harms that are of a scale that merits intervention;
  • fully respect international human rights law on freedom of expression, personal data protection and privacy;
  • have clear benchmarks;
  • be subject to rigorous ongoing review to prevent counterproductive effects for freedom of expression, privacy and the public policy goals of the measures
  • not lead to harmful consequences for the technical functioning of the Internet; among others, they should avoid its fragmentation, and ensure that its security, stability and resiliency is intact; and
  • avoid any measure, such as ancillary copyright, which would serve to make access to quality journalism more difficult and make it even easier to spread disinformation.

Liberties, EDRi and Access Now are working on issuing a shadow report in the coming weeks to provide a thorough human rights assessment of current policy considerations and make constructive recommendations. In the meantime, our full position is in our response to the Commission's public consultation.

European Digital Rights (EDRi) is a not-for-profit association of digital civil rights organisations. Our objectives are to promote, protect and uphold civil rights online.

European Digital Rights (EDRi)
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