The world is growing more connected. This presents tremendous opportunities but also throws up a number of risks, including from disinformation and misinformation, abuse of personal data, and a growing digital divide between those with skills and access to technology and those without. How can Europe navigate these challenges and help build trust and safety online?
In the video at the top of this post, we try to answer this question by speaking to Marietje Schaake, a former liberal MEP and currently Senior Advisor at Eurasia Group and International Policy Director at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center, as well as Ben Wreschner, Chief Economist of the Vodafone Group.
Both Marietje and Ben respond to concerns raised by our Debating Europe community. As part of the Connected Europe project, we’ve been running a series of online focus groups with a diverse mix of over 300 citizens from 16 European countries, recruited from our followers on our website, Facebook, and Twitter.
For example, during one focus group, there was a fascinating comment made by Dan, a young person from Romania, who shared his personal experience with disinformation online:
My parents are on WhatsApp, and they have this group of late-middle-aged people that they’re communicating with, and it’s insane how relentless the misinformation and disinformation is in that group, and how everything is so negative and so toxic. It’s all about how we all are going to die because of the vaccines, and the vaccines are just all sorts of things to make us the sheep of Bill Gates.
Interesting, most of our focus group participants said they were not overly concerned about how their personal data was being used. We often heard the refrain “They know it all anyway!” (though participants were generally more cautious about their health or financial data). Still, we had a comment from Tomás from Portugal, who told us he was very worried about personal data:
I’m worried about what our data might be used for beyond just advertising. For example, there are companies out there that want to design an AI that tries to guess people’s sexuality. What if Iran, or somewhere where homosexuality is illegal, gets hold of an AI like that? Our data can be used to discriminate and, even if we’re okay with Facebook advertising to us, what if that data is sold to malicious entities?
Finally, Lorenz from Germany said he was worried about a growing generation gap in terms of digital skills, particularly when it comes to spotting disinformation:
I feel like we [younger people] had all these learning experiences online in a way that maybe older generations lacked and are now they are just stuck at home and confronted with all this disinformation.
How would our experts respond? What would Marietje and Ben say to Dan’s experience of misinformation and disinformation online? How would they respond to Tomás’ fears about misuse of data? What about Lorenz’s comment about digital skills and the generation gap online? Check out the video at the top of this page to see what they have to say.
Want to learn more about how we can build trust and safety online? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):
How can we build trust and safety online? How can we counter rampant misinformation and disinformation while preserving freedom of speech? How can we prevent our personal data being harvest and abused by malicious entities, including authoritarian regimes? How can we build a safer regulatory framework alongside stronger digital skills for citizens? 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: Photo by Ludovic Toinel on Unsplash
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