Sat. Mar 25th, 2023


The public hearing, with two panels of experts, focused on the future of democracy in the digital age and how to strike the right regulatory balances in increasingly tech-driven societies.

You can watch the recording of the debate from this link.

The event was jointly hosted on Thursday by the Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age (AIDA) and the Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union, including Disinformation (INGE).

“At the dawn of the digital age, we must set in place rules, worldwide, which will ensure AI will not be used to undermine democracy” said AIDA committee Chair Dragoş Tudorache (Renew Europe, RO). “We need to look inward, and ensure that we do not allow the use of AI for undemocratic practices such as mass surveillance, mass social scoring by the state, or discrimination, in Europe. Second, we must reach out to the world’s democracies and work together to build an alliance of digital democracies strong enough to set the rules, standards, and red lines of a democratic digital future, worldwide.

Third, we need to ensure that we are protected – by strengthening our cybersecurity, increasing our own citizens’ resilience to fake news and disinformation through education, and developing cutting-edge tools to counter cutting-edge attacks. Last but not least, we need a paradigm shift: we need to understand that AI-powered attacks on democracy can be even more devastating than conventional attacks, and we must treat them as such. This needs to be reflected in our defence policy, in our cooperation with and participation in NATO, in our transatlantic alliance, and in our global strategy”.

“Technological developments have a major impact on the functioning of our democracies. Too often, these technologies are misused by hostile foreign actors to manipulate opinion and weaken our democracies” said INGE committee Chair Raphaël Glucksmann (S&D, FR).

“Today’s joint hearing shows us that legislation on digital services must be ambitious and extensive. We need new regulatory tools to fight disinformation campaigns produced on an industrial scale and launched from abroad. At the same time, we need to preserve the things we care for, including freedom of speech and democratic debates within the EU” he said.

The first panel highlighted the importance to ensure that online interactions are regulated in a manner that is coherent with offline ones. Speakers stressed the challenge that hate speech and incivility generated on social media represent for democracy, how AI can offer solutions with more funding and research, and why a framework of domestic, transnational and transatlantic mechanisms is needed.

The second panel discussed how synthetic content – deepfakes – are used for the defamation of persons and disinformation campaigns, and why a common approach is needed for content labelling, so that users know when they are exposed to content that is not authentic and has been modified. Disinformation techniques have evolved since what we have seen in the 2016 US Elections. Foreign interference may be amplified by domestic actors and local proxies, a situation more difficult for authorities and platforms to tackle. Investing into the independence of institutions and digital knowledge is needed to make democratic systems more resilient.

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