Could the EU elections be hacked? The 2019 European Parliament elections are taking place two days from now, and online campaigning has been an important way for candidates to get their message out. At the same time, these last couple of years have seen story after story of malicious actors attempting to deploy cyber-attacks and disinformation to disrupt the democratic process.

Earlier in May, Debating Europe attended an event in Brussels hosted by Google on “Information, Trust and Elections in the Digital Age”. We interviewed participants at the event, putting your questions and comments to them about the Internet and the future of democracy.

Want to learn more about the impact of the Internet on democracy? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):

What do our readers think? We had a comment from Julia arguing that the Internet “means those elected to serve the people and spend their collective money from taxes must make responsible, ethical and pro-people decisions or else face their wrong-doings going viral.” Is she right? Has the Internet brought greater transparency to public life?

To get a response, we put her comment to Paolo Cesarini, Head of Unit for Media Convergence & Social Media at DG CONNECT in the European Commission. How would he respond?

Next up, we had a much more sceptical comment from Karolina, who believes the Internet has “given a free platform to people that abuse democracy and freedom of speech, either by spreading propaganda or hurling abuse at others, and our democracy has not had the strength to stand up to such behaviour and violations.”

To get a reaction, we put Karolina’s comment to Will Moy, Director of Full Fact, a UK-based, independent fact checking charity. What would he say?

Finally, we had a comment from Eugenia arguing that the “advantages of internet top the disadvantages by far because for the first time in history, we, the ordinary people, have a voice.”

We put Eugenia’s comment to Milan Zubíček, Disinformation Policy Lead at Google, for his response. What would he say?

Has the Internet changed democracy for the better? Is freedom of speech being abused online? Has the Internet brought greater transparency to public life? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

Image Credits: (CC) Unsplash – Ludovic Toinel
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28 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Freedom of speech is attempted to be suppressed, as Internet exposed fake narrative and propaganda.
    The elitist/plutocracy and corporate interest have been using the media to manipulate people for ages. Now they seek ways to suppress Internet as media manipulation and spin, is starting to fail.

  2. avatar

    Freedom of speech is not important. It is freedom after speech that matters.

  3. avatar

    There’s (democratic) freedom then there’s anarchy. What’s the difference everyone knows- anarchy is a stateless society where people have allegiance towards their friends and relatives thus limiting the social contract to many small groups thus defending their rights and freedoms difficult while (democratic) freedom has no such allegiance as it encompass everyone in a social contract thus anyone breaching it will be met by protests from the members of whole the society. So freedom of speach must not be abused by either a party or group in their attempts to restrict the freedoms of the society as a whole. Restrictions and limitations are similar like freedom and anarchy but as I said they are two different things.

  4. avatar

    Democracy lives from the trust given to politicians.
    Current EU, and rest of the world, is facing corruption and lies gaining power.
    That shows the problem is not in the internet or phone land lines.. quantum comunications … the problem is the journalism is lacking quality and the truth is no longer exposed. Because theres big money in the lies scheme to main stream information, and the good journalism is now pay-per-view.. and obviously the truth is now only forthe viewble of the few (a minoritiy)and the majoritie only reads and discuss the lies that runs freely online
    investigation journalism is what is missing either on Tv and online.
    theres is an instinct to trusth in what we read and see.

  5. avatar

    Yes. Freedom of speach on line is a lair of fake news and democracy don,t exist. Politicians use the word to their own interest.

  6. avatar

    It is simply that people lack critical thinking skills and empathy. Or have too much empathy at the expense of their critical thinking skills. A balance is required. But what governing body would teach critical thinking skills in school and risk being reformed by empathetic critical thinkers?

  7. avatar

    Of course it’s being abused like any other freedom… It’s a side effect of democracy…

  8. avatar

    The internet has increased the ease and speed of information, which is a plus to any democracy. It also has allowed leaders or proposed leaders communicate with their constituents without using or being filtered by news papers or other pre-internet information outlets. However, the increased rate of speed is also directly related to the amount inaccuracy that can be found on the internet, which is a detriment to democracy. It has caused electors to either be confused if they are not astute enough to ignore inaccurate, biased or beguiling information. The Internet provides faster disbursement of information regardless of its accuracy. Biased media outlets also have a partial blame for lessened accuracy or unbalanced reporting.
    The Internet provides direct communication between elected officials to and from their constituents. This has been 100% for the betterment of democracy.

  9. avatar

    I think you can not say if it changed it for the better or for the worse. It’s better because you can gain more Information but also they can manipulate you.

  10. avatar

    Absolutely. The media used to be the only way to gain information. Now it’s so easy to see they’re lying

  11. avatar

    I thought access to all this information would make everyone better informed. It has not. It has overwhelmed most people who accept the first or flashiest version of information that already fits their preconceived notions. Very few Americans want to work hard enough to compare alternative sources and check their facts.
    Fox figured that out first and started to mold news to fit the consumption of their less educated conservative listeners. That is why they were recognized as fake news long before the term was coined. As was said in Mr Robot. Our Democracy has been hacked. Hacked, not in the sense of computer hacking but in the more general sense of using a system in a way that was not part of its original intent. Propaganda! That is where the real damage has been done to our Democracy.

  12. avatar

    If fake news, are under control… Yes

  13. avatar

    Well since we are all censored in social media, what democracy, what freedom of speech?

  14. avatar

    Well-reasoned response here by Will Moy. I agree.

  15. avatar

    Am sure some complained about Demosthenes speeches in the forum in Athens…wharever the medium, you require critical thinking to evaluate facts.

  16. avatar

    You cannot “abuse” freedom of speech. You either have it of you don’t. Freedom of speech is not there to protect mainstream, uncontroversial opinions! It’s there for the outliers!

  17. avatar

    God save us from politicians seeking to regulate the internet. We’re starting to see the disastrous implications of GDPR, which far from protecting individual rights, has curtailed investment, reduced start ups, shattering any thought of EU competing with US & China and reinforced dominance of the existing IT behemoths.

  18. avatar

    Politicians are overpayd diva’s who should stay away from the web before they f it up 2 like there doing in almost every gouverment

  19. avatar

    Freedom of speech goes with responsibility. And I don’t see any responsibility in people publishing conspiracy theories online or anti-semitic content for example. There should be some reasonable limits to free speech, especially when it contains an appeal to violence against others.

  20. avatar

    The mainstream media turned out to be a cloud of dust,of the globalists,so we can do better and not be cheated.

  21. avatar

    Yes. More supply of information

  22. avatar

    Yes, it has. Particularly, the mobile phones and social networks have given a public voice to almost everyone, and this is just, although it actualised problems of public education.

  23. avatar

    Its just a tool. Used by the top & the base of the social pyramid. Since they start to interact we have a benefit for the system.

  24. avatar

    I think that giving information via the Internet is right but it must be used correctly.

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