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 Full text 
Wednesday, 14 November 2018 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Increasing EU resilience against the influence of foreign actors on the upcoming EP election campaign (topical debate)

  Claude Moraes, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Mr President, I would like to thank the EPP and thank the author very much for introducing this topical debate. It could not be more important and better timed. For my group, the S&D, this is a big priority and I think the previous speaker spoke very eloquently on why that is the case, and I should say that very directly to him.

But let’s be very clear, colleagues. For years we have been warning about the threat posed by the collection of citizens’ data online by a handful of social media companies and the power of those who hold this information. The revelations involving Cambridge Analytica and Facebook highlight the extent of this problem and show that the issue has now reached the point of threatening our core values. The author said that these were real threats to our democracy, and not virtual threats.

The issue today, as the Commissioners have begun to set out, is one of action, and my Group is interested now in action and not just talking about the issue. Seven months out from the European elections, after the presidential elections in the US and after the UK referendum and leaving the European Union, I think it is about time that we talked about what we do, and the Commission has begun this process. But so has Parliament. So let’s be clear in what we have to do and let’s not leave this debate without saying it.

Recent requirements in the last weeks introduced in the United States, but not here in the European Union – and also by the way, in the United Kingdom – to verify the identity, location and sponsor of political advertisements, have happened, but not here. This is important, and the same standards should be applied throughout the EU. But this does not just reveal the data involved in targeting users, which could help Facebook users contextualise political ads, understand how their data has been used, or potentially misused, and be able to respond to attempts to manipulate their opinion.

We should have full algorithmic accountability and transparency for citizens to be able to protect themselves against any manipulation and to protect our electoral processes from possible foreign interference. We have now proven that this is happening, and we should have GDPR, as the Commissioner said, but also the cybersecurity resilience which Commissioner King should redouble his efforts to provide. And we should if possible – and I say this to the Council – be imaginative about e-privacy regulation if that is also possible, because the Facebook model was not just dealt with by the question of GDPR. But we need further tools and further regulation, and not just GDPR to deal with those further issues.

We have to look at how political parties and campaigns are using social platforms for campaign purposes. We have called for a code of conduct to be developed with the participation of all actors concerned. And if not, then legislative action is needed. Regulation is needed. This is not about robust debate or just aggressive democracy. This is about manipulation and, as the Council said, sometimes about criminal activity and breaking the law. That is where the line has been crossed and that is where we need legislative action when necessary.

But we also believe that applying conventional offline electoral safeguards, such as rules on transparency and limits to spending, respect for silence periods and equal treatment of candidates is essential, making it easy to recognise online political paid advertisements and the organisations behind them. Banning profiling for electoral purposes, including the use of online behaviour that may reveal political preference.

Now is the time for action. We have spoken about the threats to our democracy, to our very core values. We at the European Parliament have had the hearings from journalists from The Guardian, we’ve examined Cambridge Analytica, we have interviewed Facebook. Now is the time for action. We have the commitment from the Commission. Let’s ask them to redouble their efforts, but here in Parliament our democracy is under threat. Let’s do something about it, and let’s have that action now.

Last updated: 8 April 2019Legal notice