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

The Internet, 17 April 2020 Today, the European Pirates voted against a resolution of the European Parliament, which calls on social network operators to proactively find and “stop disinformation and hate speech”. Upload filters used by Facebook and other operators pose a fundamental threat to freedom of expression on the Internet. Calling for such censorship is absolutely unacceptable, especially at a moment when accurate and timely information is essential if we are to successfully overcome the current situation.

“It is outrageous that some politicians use this pandemic and this crisis situation to pursue their long-term goal of silencing people. Just last year, hundreds of thousands of people protested on the streets against upload filters. Now, when the situation is critical, old ideas of restricting freedom of expression are coming back. We are determined to fight COVID-19. For this exact reason, it is imperative 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 the social media, which are technologically unreliable, because they also suppress legitimate essential information,” said the Vice-President of the European Parliament Marcel Kolaja.

“If we want 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. The right way to tackle these challenges is through media literacy, education, and civil society initiatives, not censorship,” explains Patrick Breyer.

“The Covid-19 virus is one of the most serious challenges humanity must face. Its effects will stay with us for years to come. The social and societal implications of mass unemployment, mass bankruptcies, and mass surveillance will make us into a more divided, unsafe, and weaker society. This cannot be prevented by national leadership only. Fighting this virus will take supra-national and shared European decisions. 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 an equal distribution of the financial burdens stemming from the crisis,” comments Markéta Gregorová.

“While I welcome that the resolution clearly denounces the rise of authoritarian regimes in Europe, I am really disappointed both by the suggestions to proactively monitor the social media and by the absence of a clear commitment to save the economy in another ‘whatever it takes’ move. We are facing a real possibility that the monetary union could be destroyed – and I would expect a much louder call for solidarity, especially from countries like Germany and the Netherlands, which benefited the most from European integration,” adds Mikuláš Peksa.

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