Ramón Luis Valcárcel: “Misinformation poses a risk to democracy and European integrity”

Ramón Luis Valcárcel, Vice-President of the European Parliament and Chairman of the Working Group on Information and Communication Policy, has held a conference at the Almagro Campus of University Camilo José Cela (UCJC) under the title The European Union facing the challenge of disinformation, in which he warned about the scale of disinformation in democracies and how it endangers the rights of European citizens. The Rector of UCJC, Samuel Martín-Barbero, also took part.

Valcárcel begun his presentation with a general analysis on the situation in the European Union. “We are going through a time of selfishness and lack of solidarity”, and added that the debate on misinformation is “urgent and necessary”, since, as he has assured, “Misinformation poses a great risk to democracy, and therefore to European integrity.” For Valcárcel, it is necessary “to protect our common democratic system.”

The Vice-President of the European Parliament has emphasised the importance of universities and their educational community and, in particular, of university students, whom are called to “lead the Union of tomorrow. At a time when Europe must redefine itself, around the values that define us as Europeans, the Union needs you. ” Valcárcel also advocated for the reputation of universities: “Spanish universities, and specifically UCJC, are much more than what has been seen lately.” And he added: “Spanish universities are represented by you, your professors, your families. And we all believe in quality education focused on excellence open to all and built on equality. ”

Valcárcel insisted on the importance of “defending the rights of European citizens in the face of the populisms that haunt us, and the misinformation they bring with them.”

Regarding the dissemination and consumption of information, and in reference to fake news, Valcárcel was firm: “Misinformation is a weapon against the well-being of society”. He also appealed to the responsibility of the institutions and media and digital platforms: “It is incumbent upon legislators to work to ensure that digital giants abide by current norms and contribute to preserving democracy. And these same giants should also advance in transparency and decide to cooperate with public administrations” “If a newspaper spreads false information, it can be taken to court and forced to rectify. Digital platforms must be submitted, to neither a greater or lesser degree, to the same rules. ”

Measures against misinformation

“83% of Europeans see fake news as a threat to democracy”, he stressed. The Vice-President of the European Parliament explained that self-regulation is not enough to combat misinformation. Valcárcel advocated taking “clear and forceful measures” to stop the dissemination of fake news. In this regard, he recalled that “in the EU we are committed to fact checking to fight against the disinformation, and we will not spare in expenses in this”.

He recalled that he is an advocate of cooperation with the digital industry, and also spoke of the need for “advance in media literacy, with programmes that help citizens identify what is intended to manipulate them “. He also stressed the importance of programmes that incorporate seminars in the school curriculum in which students are taught to recognise false content.