The digital platform to be launched on 19 April for EU citizens to participate in the Conference on the Future of Europe has been developed with the threat of disinformation in mind, the European Commission said on Tuesday (13 April).
In a debate with the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee, Commissioner Dubravka Suica was questioned by several MEPs on how to prevent abuse of the citizens’ forum, assured that everything is being done to prevent misinformation, hate speech and other interference such as ‘trolls’ or ‘bots’.
The vice-president for democracy – who was elected by the Commission to co-chair the executive board of the conference, together with Ana Paula Zacarias, Portugal’s secretary of state for European affairs, representing the Council of the EU, and Guy Verhofstadt MEP for the parliament – stressed that there would be a team of moderators, native speakers of all EU official languages, who “will constantly monitor the content of the platform”.
The commissioner said that this team of moderators will always be operational and ready to intervene quickly when inappropriate content is detected and stressed that any user, i.e. any citizen who has registered to participate in the multilingual digital platform, can flag offensive content.
On the other hand, he pointed out, a quota system has been created for users, “to avoid ‘trolls’ or ‘bots'”, and the team of moderators, which will work under the supervision of the secretariat of the executive council, will have a reactive and proactive attitude.
Guy Verhofstadt also said the aim is to keep the platform clean, from hate speech, conspiracy theories and everything else, although it cannot be guaranteed that this will be achieved “100%”.
“Hopefully we won’t fall into the same problems as Mr [Mark] Zuckerberg, because the platform is a bit what Facebook is to society,” he said, drawing a parallel between that social network co-founded and chaired by Zuckerberg, and the digital platform, which he labelled as “the social network of the conference” or its “steering wheel”.
Through the multilingual digital platform, which will be launched next Monday, citizens from all over Europe will be able to give their opinion on any topic they consider important for the future of the EU, present their ideas, comment on the ideas of others, create and participate in events to discuss the future of the EU, the three institutions co-chairing the conference: the European Parliament, the Council of the EU, which Portugal is chairing this semester, and the European Commission, announced on 7 April.
The platform will be the central hub of the Conference, a place where all contributions will be gathered and shared and will have a feedback mechanism that will aggregate and analyse the key points raised so that they can be taken into account, as well as a list, and a map, of the events organised at local, regional, national and European level.
The Conference will have as its official ‘hashtag’ #TheFutureIsYours.
Originally planned to kick off in May 2020 and last for two years, the conference was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and differences around the governance model of this forum, which will, after all, extend for roughly one year until spring 2022.
The platform will be available even before the formal launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe, scheduled for 9 May, Europe Day, in Strasbourg, at a hybrid ceremony, given the persistence of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Conference on the Future of Europe is chaired by Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, as he holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU until 30 June, the president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.