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Democracy Hacked? How to respond?


Dear Colleagues,

What we are debating here today is in fact a crucial issue, one that affects the access to, level of participation in and, ultimately, the quality of our democracies, for citizens and politicians alike. How do we effectively protect our democracies from the damaging excesses of the digital transformation? The regulation of the digital public sphere in our open societies is the complex task we have before us and indeed constitutes the essence of this Report.


It is undeniable that digital technology is shaping human behaviour and emotions in ways that influence people’s engagement with politics, allowing them to express their political views publicly, outside the established and formal sphere of political interaction. Online, people are also confronted with an overwhelming amount of new sources and types of information. As illustrated in the Report, this has both positive and negative consequences, as, on the one hand, it has enriched the political discourse and public engagement, whilst at the same time, it has engendered new threats, particularly as regards the spread of hate speech, populist rhetoric, conspiracy theories that encourage the creation of increasingly fragmented and polarised societies. The Report also highlights the very damaging effects that manipulation of online content entails for the conduct of free and democratic elections.


Luckily, we do dispose of important tools to harness these threats. Competition policy, taxation and fiscal justice, privacy and data regulation, setting common standards and creating networks of collaboration in research and development for innovation purposes, are all very important tools. It is also critically important to address concerns regarding transparency in the way social media and large technology companies operate, particularly as regards sensitive data and how users are targeted and increasingly monitored by algorithms.


My answer to these challenges is more democracy. Hard rules need to be put into place, at the legislative and regulatory level, to ensure that it is in fact people who steer the impact and direction of technology. Technology is devised by people and is the product of the political, economic and social context it was created in. The reaction and the way we deal with the digital transformation must be as democratic, diverse and culturally representative as possible.


Thank you.

In this report:
1. Speeches in English, French, German and Italian are reported in full in English.
2. Speeches in other languages are summarised from the interpretation and indicated by an asterisk (*).
3. Speeches in German and Italian are available in full on the Assembly’s website.
4. The text of the amendments is available at the document centre and on the Assembly’s website. Only oral
amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates.
5. Corrections should be handed in at Room 1081 not later than 24 hours after the report has been published.