Reclaiming the Truth: the role of European citizens on countering fake news

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by Rui Vieira, master's student in EU law at University of Minho

The epidemic of unrestrained fake News on social medial in the latest years has revealed itself to be a major concern for the European democratic culture. The same way there is a massive amount of information circulating, there is also a massive amount of misinformation and sensationalistic, unreliable information flowing through Social Networks. The repercussions and negative effects on public opinion are varied. From social tension to the promotion of demagogy, uncertainty and pessimistic skepticism on the public opinion.

Facing such global-scaled problems, the Commission wants its citizens to feedback on fake news and online disinformation. A Public consultation on the ways to tackle this online problem is available between November and February.

The demand for possible regulation for this problem came after a 2017 Resolution by the European Parliament calling on the Commission to analyse in depth the current situation and legal framework with regards to fake news and to verify the possibility of legislative intervention.

In fact, the advent of Social Networks did nothing more than to increase older concerns. In the last century, it was already discussed if there is a conceptual distance between news and the truth and if a democratic public opinion is compatible with a free press and the search for the truth[i].

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Competition, coin mining and plastic memories: why the EU should watch the Web Summit carefully

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by Tiago Cabral, member of CEDU

After the overall success of the 2016 edition – with a few exceptions like the failing Wi-Fi[i]– Lisbon hosted for the second time “the largest tech conference in the world”. We are obviously referring to this year’s edition of Web Summit which brought about 60.000 attendees from more than 170 countries to the Portuguese capital. This event is obviously significant to the Portuguese economy with an investment of about 1.3 Million Euros originating an expected return of about 300 Million. But there is more to Web Summit than the number of attendees or its effect on the Portuguese economy (even if both are relevant), it offers a look into the future and the future brings a plethora of complicated legal and political challenges. Some of these challenges demand a supranational response and the EU should watch very carefully the trends coming out of Lisbon. In the following paragraphs, we shall highlight a few topics to illustrate.

1. “The Digital Single Market has become a new political and constitutional calling for the EU” and it cannot work in the absence of healthy competition. The European Commissioner for Competition’s “clearing the path for innovation” speech[ii] (7th November) – even if its content or delivery certainly did not impress us – made clear how seriously the Commission is taking this issue. American Tech Giants dominate the EU’s market and without proper competition enforcement, European companies may fall prey to anti-competitive behaviour before they have the chance to get a foothold. The speech also made a few interesting points about the growing importance of big data in competition and about trust in competition. However, it had a rather uncomfortable “Google paranoia” emanating from it. The 2.42€ billion fine against Google for breaching EU antitrust rules was historic – whether or not we agree with it –, but so were, for example, Microsoft v. Commission (2007) and the 561€ million fine against Microsoft (2013) for non-compliance with browser choice commitments. Yet, by name the Commissioner only referred to Google. There was a reference to the issue of special tax treatment, which immediately brings the controversies with Apple and Amazon[iii] to mind, but the companies were not named. Since there was no time to properly explain the details of the referred antitrust proceeding – or of the other two ongoing antitrust proceedings against Google, regarding AdSense and Android – the speech did nothing to further inform the audience on this issue and only left the feeling that there is a fixation on Google in the Commission. Interestingly, the 6th November intervention by the Commissioner where she was interviewed by Kara Swisher suffers no such issues. The interviewer asked the right questions, what companies are breaking the rules, what is the Commission’s reaction and what are the consequences. There was no singling out of a company with references to Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook, no attempts to explain the complicated reasoning behind the proceedings in a few short minutes, the comparisons to the US also added value to the interview.

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Editorial of October 2017

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by Joana Covelo de Abreu, Junior Editor


Promotion of internet connectivity in local communities (“WIFI4EU” legislative framework): deepening European Digital Single Market through interoperability solutions

Digital Single Market has become a new political and constitutional calling for the EU since it can promote both economic growth and sustainable development.

Therefore, four researchers – which are, respectively, Editors and Junior Editors of this Blog (Alessandra Silveira, as Scientific Coordinator; Pedro Froufe; Joana Covelo de Abreu, as the responsible for the research deliverable; and Sophie Perez) – were awarded a Jean Monnet Project funding by the European Commission, concerning the theme “EU Digital Single Market as a political calling: interoperability as the way forward”, with the acronym “INTEROP”. This project, with a 2 years’ duration starting on September 2017, is settled on scientific research around administrative interoperable solutions in order to evolve and develop new juridical sensitivities that can rely on interoperable environments, especially concerning debt recovery in the European Union.

Taking into consideration new developments on administrative connectivity, last September 12th 2017, the European Parliament discussed and approved a European Resolution which endorses the necessary legislative alterations, settled on a new Regulation regarding the promotion of Internet connectivity in local communities, universally known as “WiFi4EU”. It will promote the installation of free Wi-Fi spots in public places, squares, municipalities’ facilities, libraries and hospitals. Carlos Zorrinho, a Portuguese Member of the European Parliament (MEP), was the Rapporteur of the resolution, and understood that this solution will promote “neutrality on internet access” despite the geographical location or the economic conditions of the user – “it does not discriminate no one and no territory”. Therefore, “WiFi4EU” is the embryo of the proclaimed European Gigabit Society.

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