European perspectives - the main messages of Gong's international conference

How to connect different European perspectives on dealing with the expansion of fake news in the digital sphere, in order to find joint solutions - this is the question that experts in disinformation, media, media literacy, democracy and technology dealt with while participating in Gong's conference "European Perspectives: The Impact of Disinformation on the health of democracy and the digital environment".

Regardless of their country of origin, or the field in which they specialize, all conference participants agreed that disinformation cannot be suppressed through regulation and laws only, but that it is also necessary to empower the media and journalists, invest in quality and independent journalism, as well as democratic political culture, media and digital literacy of citizens of the European Union. They also agreed that passing high-quality laws is only part of the story - they also need to be implemented well so they don't turn into empty promises.

"The main message and reason for the existence of the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) is to ensure a multifaceted approach to identifying and removing disinformation. There is not just one mechanism, nor just one instrument that could solve this problem, we need many different players, smart regulations and education in media literacy, as well as appropriate research and reliable fact-checking," warned Lauri Tierala, the program director of EDMO.

"Our goal is not only to make people aware of the harmful effects of the operation of digital platforms, but also to design regulations that limit the negative consequences of the current platform business model. The Digital Services Act provides an important opportunity to establish rules that would end at least some of the most invasive practices of online platforms, for example in the field of online advertising, or in the application of algorithms for content creation, or in content moderation, where platforms have the power to decide what you can and cannot see on the Internet," said Dorota Głowacka, lawyer from the Panoptykon Foundation.

"When it comes to regulating the Internet, it is important not to get lost in the way of regulating information. We must regulate the space for information, not the information itself, because we do not want regulations that hinder the freedom of online expression. The Digital Services Act goes a step further, it tries to regulate systemic problems, at least to some extent. I think it should be recognized that social media platforms are not even intended as spaces for public discussion, but as platforms for advertising, and as such must ensure that people view as many ads as possible in order to reveal personal profiling data, because that's what companies need. So, these platforms work for the interests of the platforms, not in the interest of public discussion," said Jan Penfrat from the European Network for Digital Rights (EDRI).

In order for the regulation of disinformation on digital platforms to bear fruit, it is necessary to create an educated and aware public. In order to achieve this, it is important to "educate pupils, students, experts, people of all social classes and ages, so that they gain an understanding of the media and the ability to critically understand the information they receive through it", concluded Dražen Hoffmann, Gong's head of educational programs.

The conference is organized as part of the multidisciplinary project “Pro-fact: Research, education, fact-check and debunk COVID-19 related disinformation narratives in Croatia“, led by Gong. Through research, awareness raising and capacity building, the project comprehensively approaches the social, political and health problem of the dissemination of COVID-19 disinformation campaigns, together with our partners: Faculty of Political Science in ZagrebUniversity of DubrovnikFaktograf.hrFaculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, and Croatian Journalists Society (HND) and the Croatian Journalists’ Union (SNH).

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