Ref. Ares(2017)123266 - 10/01/2017
Ref. Ares(2017)2916818 - 12/06/2017
Ares(2016) s- 7776095
Mr Jean-Claude Juncker
President of the European Commission
Dear Mr President,
Online platforms have been making substantial contributions in promoting innovation and
technological growth and progress in Europe, including by providing better services to our
At the same time, not a day passes without media coverage on issues linked to the growing
role of online platforms in our society – from concerns about the proliferation of fake news or
hate speech on the Internet to criticisms that algorithms may unduly restrict access to relevant
information or influence the type of information citizens are exposed to. In particular, social
media platforms are fast becoming the dominant source of news and information for ever
larger segments of society. Many citizens share and spread news through social media without
regard to the quality or reputation of the source, but frequently simply because a news item
confirms their belief or prejudice. Through this, the public opinion is increasingly determined
by echo chambers ("filter bubbles") that amplify existing prejudice, and many citizens are
exposed to alleged "facts" that do not have any scientific foundation (for example on the
risks/merits of vaccinations). Of course, similar phenomena already existed in the offline
world (for instance in the tabloid press) – yet their spread, scale and intensity have grown
dramatically with the emergence of large online platforms.
In this way, online fake news and polarising opinions have begun to greatly influence public
opinion, thus potentially weakening the democratic control function of the traditional free
press (which is one of the reasons why we have addressed the issue of publishers' rights in the
copyright reform). This is of course also of relevance to the reputation of the EU, in that fake
news may further aggravate an anti-EU feeling in the population.
The Commission has responded to specific concerns about the role of platforms in sectoral
initiatives (e.g. through the Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech, the
forthcoming Terrorism Directive, proposals on copyright, audiovisual media services,
telecoms and e-privacy). Yet, these initiatives may not be sufficient to tackle today's
phenomena in terms of fake news or filter bubbles.
The Commission needs to address these concerns as a matter of urgency.
What are possible policy responses that we could discuss on this occasion?
For instance, Facebook just announced that it will begin flagging fake
news stories with the help of users and outside fact checkers (including journalist
Professional journalistic standards and codes of ethics for the 'traditional' media are integral
parts of our EU democratic societies.
Given the importance of these issues in the current political context, I suggest the College
debates them thoroughly and reflects upon the possible policy responses at earliest
convenience in the New Year.
Electronically signed on 10/01/2017 12:21 (UTC+01) in accordance with article 4 2 (Validity of electronic documents) of Commission Decision 2004/563