“Local and regional elected representatives across Europe are constantly confronted with the rise of fake news and hate speech which has powerful repercussions on their work and on the functioning of democracy”, underlined Congress President Leendert s ‘addressing the 147th session of the European Committee of the Regions. in Brussels, Belgium, December 2, 2021. Speaking during the debate on “Fight against disinformation to ensure a functional and resilient democracy at all levels”, he underlined the leading role of local and regional authorities in the response to this threat.
The President of the Congress recalled that the issue of disinformation is part of a larger picture of multiple crises: loss of citizens’ confidence, deterioration of the link with public institutions, anti-liberal tendencies, authoritarian temptations, resurgence of nationalism, climate change. , technological developments, migration challenges, globalization and the crisis of representative democracy. In addition to these challenges, the Covid-19 health crisis has put a strain on governance institutions at all levels.
“We are witnessing the emergence of a” clash “society in which confrontation is the norm, with new forms of individual and collective violence,” Mr. Verbeek warned. “Trust in fake news begins with mistrust of public authorities and the information they provide. Restoring citizens’ trust in the political system is therefore the only sustainable way to reverse the spread of disinformation,” a- he said, stressing the importance of citizen access. to reliable information.
Faced with a rapidly changing information landscape and widespread use of the Internet, social media and blogs competing with traditional media, President Verbeek called for “taming” technology. “A new social culture around the Internet must be created in order to promote social responsibility, to establish clear rules on what is appropriate online behavior and to raise awareness of the risks,” he said.
To explore how fake news and hate speech affect local democracy, the Congress has embarked on a scientific cooperation project involving academics and experts from academic institutions in Ludwigsburg, Budapest, Bucharest, Kosice and Vienna. Based on the analysis of the experiences of local authorities, the project will result in a report that will be presented to the Congress session in March 2022.
“We, the Congress and the Committee of the Regions, as institutions representing these authorities, must use our networks to pool experiences and disseminate good practices to counter the spread of disinformation”, concluded President Verbeek.