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:

Image of a citizenI’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:

Image of a citizenI 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
Editorially independent content supported by: Vodafone and Connected Europe. See our FAQ for more details.


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17 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    You cannot trust anyone online. Someone might curse you and send you negative energy as a revenge and then you cannot prove it.

  2. avatar

    There is all sorts of people on the internet. Not all of them are real or they have good intentions. Furthermore people on the internet change like the weather everyday.

  3. avatar

    Why having kinds if all you can give them is something money buys? Give them the love to spend time with them and teach them instead of giving them tablet and phone! ‍♂️

  4. avatar

    Disconnect you’re children from tv and technology …. let them play out side,let them connect with real kids and not over the net

  5. avatar

    you just can’t trust it. Disconnecting that ‘s the only way out.

  6. avatar

    Zeer simpel: helemaal niet. Onmogelijk.

  7. avatar

    How about disallowing corporations from using every single interaction we make online for commercial and advertising purposes?

  8. avatar

    In case anyone is wondering, this “discussion” is a strategy for “warming people up” to a digital ID for going online. This has nothing to do with protecting the children. This has everything to do with totalitarian control that’s already set in motion from 2019.

  9. avatar

    structure of behind the kid is like a metamorph from Alien

  10. avatar

    disconnect and go offline like we used to be and refind joy in that

  11. avatar

    The truth is always inconvenient. Nobody like the truth so it is easier for them to be like that!

  12. avatar

    La télé..l arme de propagande de l élite…jetez vos télés dehors

  13. avatar

    By not letting the government get involved.

  14. avatar

    Sue facebook would help a lot ‍♀️

  15. avatar

    certainly not with ANY TYPE OF censorship. this is total propaganda – all we need is to THINK while reading stuff and we need NO OFFICIAL BODY that will regulate online stuff, certainly nothing like this:

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