EU chief guns for Internet giants over freedom of speech

Restrictions should be placed on internet companies so they aren’t in a position to make unilateral decisions that will affect freedom of speech and democratic values, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

“We need to contain this immense power of the big digital companies,” von der Leyen said in a virtual address at the World Economic Forum.

“We want the platforms to be transparent about how their algorithms work because we cannot accept that decisions that have a far-reaching impact on our democracy are taken by computer programs alone.”

Von der Leyen said she was alarmed at the role social media played in the attack on the Capitol in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6 as well as Twitter’s decision two days later to permanently ban President Donald Trump’s account.

She said it wasn’t for internet companies alone to decide how information was disseminated.

“We want it clearly laid down that internet companies take responsibility for the manner in which they disseminate, promote and remove content,” the head of the EU’s executive arm said, speaking from Brussels.

“No matter how tempting it may have been for Twitter to turn off President Trump’s account, such serious interference with freedom of expression should not be based on company rules alone,” she said. “There needs to be a framework of laws for such far-reaching decisions.”

In December, the EU proposed a tough set of new technology rules in a bid to quash bad behavior by powerful platforms they see as posing a threat to the bloc’s society and economic markets.

They could hamstring platforms from entering into new markets and tightly control how they develop new services.

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EU chief guns for Internet giants over freedom of speech