This Opinion welcomes the European Media Freedom Act and all the related EU initiatives aiming to address the worrying developments in the area of media freedom over the last years. The Opinion entails a number of recommendations concerning editorial and journalists' independence; the need for financial resources to ensure independence of public media; transparency in the allocation of State advertising; transparency of media ownership. The Opinion also calls for measures to ensure the independence of national regulatory bodies, especially in the context of the future European board for media services. It also considers that EU anti-concentration law should be used where national regulators fail to address media market concentration.
Action Plan against Disinformation - Related Opinions
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This Guidance sets out the Commission’s views on how platforms and other relevant stakeholders should step up their measures to address gaps and shortcomings in the Code and create a more transparent, safe and trustworthy online environment
In this opinion, the EESC recalls that media freedom, including the safety and security of journalists, and media pluralism are cornerstones of liberal democracy. It therefore notes with regrets that the developments within the EU are alarming and calls for urgent steps by Member States and the EU, including through the use of the new general regime of budget conditionality. The EESC welcomes the broad range of reports and initiatives by the European Parliament and the Commission, including the Commission's plan for a "European Media Freedom Act". It also supports measures to increase the safety of journalists and underlines the necessity of a legal ban on Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). The EESC supports the idea of a European Agency to bolster media skills of EU citizens through educational programmes. It also proposes the creation of a fully independent European public service broadcaster.
The landscape of digital services is significantly different today from 20 years ago, when the eCommerce Directive was adopted. Online intermediaries have become vital players in the digital transformation. Online platforms in particular have created significant benefits for consumers and innovation, but at the same time, they can be used as a vehicle for disseminating illegal content, or selling illegal goods or services online.
Initiative addressing online platform challenges as regards the spreading of disinformation (Communication)
A variety of tools and methods are currently used to undermine European values and external actions of the EU, as well as to develop and provoke separatist and nationalistic attitudes, manipulate the public and conduct direct interference in the domestic policy of sovereign countries and the EU as a whole. Moreover, the growing influence of cyber offensive capabilities and increased weaponization of technologies to achieve political goals is observed. The impact of such actions is often underestimated.
The EESC agrees with the Commission's call for more responsibility on the part of social media platforms. However, despite the existence of several studies and policy papers produced by European specialists in the last few years, the Commission's communication lacks any practical mandatory steps to ensure this.
The EESC considers that ENISA's new permanent mandate as proposed by the Commission will significantly contribute to enhancing the resilience of European systems. However, the accompanying provisional budget and resources allocated to ENISA will not be sufficient for the agency to fulfil its mandate.
The EESC recommends to all Member States to establish a clear and equivalent counterpart to ENISA, as most of them have not done it yet.
The EESC also feels that, ENISA should prioritise actions to support e-government, should provide regular reports on the cyber-readiness of Member States focusing on sectors identified in Annex II to the NIS Directive and monitor the performance and decision-making of national certification supervisory authorities.
The EESC supports the proposal to create a cybersecurity competence network sustained by a Cybersecurity Research and Competence Centre (CRCC).
The EESC supports the European Digital Single Market Strategy proposed by the Juncker Commission, which is an extension of existing digital strategies and programmes. Its intention is to end the fragmentation of European digital policy into 28 strategies and national digital markets and merge them within a European approach, so as to guarantee a leading position for the EU in the global digital economy, a privilege that has become the preserve of third countries.
The EESC is convinced that the European Union, which has at its disposal excellent skills and considerable experience in certain aspects of digital technology, can still catch up. With this in mind, the EESC strongly recommends developing multidisciplinary research poles and European synergies in the European Research Area, in spheres such as cloud computing, nano-electronics, the storage and processing of big data, appliances that can be consulted or controlled remotely (connected objects), and smart services.
Due to the personal and societal impact of social networks and their future development and consequences, the EU institutions need to prioritise the adoption of binding and non-binding supranational measures leading to self-regulation or, preferably, co-regulation, in line with the Digital Agenda, to foster responsible and intelligent use within a dynamic Digital Single Market and to prevent the problems associated with its inherent risks. The EESC believes the ideal situation would be to have "model laws" on which to base international regulation. However, until this becomes possible, we need to find an EU-level solution.
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