As a number of EU member-states are expressing their consternation at the way speech is being suppressed on Big Tech companies’ social media arms in the wake of the unrest on Capitol Hill in Washington on January 6 – so the bloc’s “chief” – i.e., the head of the EU Commission, is hoping for more coordination with Biden’s incoming administration on regulating “hate speech and disinformation” online.
There, in the center of the operation, in Brussels and during a session of the European Parliament dedicated to the Biden inauguration, Germany’s former defense minister, now the head of EU’s 27-member executive branch, Ursula von der Leyen, offered some comments apparently hopeful that more coordinated online censorship might follow.
Leyen said the riots in Washington lasting several hours earlier in the month were an example of how “hate speech” incites real world action that a leader like her felt was worthy of mentioning as a threat to democracy – based on what she chose to term as “hate speech and fake news.”
The EU, of course, is a vulnerable organization – having lost a major member, the UK, and trying to “make the center hold” amid the many challenges launched by member-nation states.
Leyen said that the Washington event amounts to “hate and contempt for our democracy spreading unfiltered through social media to millions of people.”
And while some commentators chose to, somewhat controversially, compare the culling of social media accounts of Donald Trump, and even entire alternative social networks, to Hitler’ “Night of the Long Knives” – she said that to her, the situation now online was reminiscent of “an attempt by right-wing extremists in Germany to storm the Reichstag building” – last summer.
But that’s not because there is too much intrusive censorship – Leyen’s argument is precisely that there isn’t enough.
So – what should be done about all this, according to the highest echelons of collective EU power?
“We must make sure that messages of hate and fake news can no longer be spread unchecked,” Leyen said, while making lip-service to the “unwashed masses” both in the US and the EU, who, in their predicament, she believes are more prone accept what she says are “conspiracy theories.”
At the same time, she said that internet companies must “take responsibility for the content they disseminate” – ostensibly, suggesting they should be treated as publishers, no doubt in this way appeasing her constituency back at home in Germany.
True to this side of this forked-tongue argument, Leyen added, any such censorship moves “should be based on decisions of politicians and parliaments and not of Silicon Valley managers.”