The Congress rapporteur on hate speech and fake news Wilma Delissen Van Tongerlo, Netherlands (L, ILDG) spoke at the 19th European Conference of Electoral Management Bodies, organised by the Venice Commission, on the topic “Artificial Intelligence and Electoral Integrity” on 15 November 2022 in Strasbourg, France.
Addressing the participants of the session on artificial intelligence and harmful content, she highlighted the impact on local and regional electoral processes, referring to the Congress report on ‘Hate speech and fake news: the impact on working conditions of local and regional elected representatives’, adopted in October 2022.
“Artificial intelligence is used, in particular bots and trolls, for disinformation campaigns in relation to elections, spreading fake news and propaganda at an impressive speed and scale”, she said. Ms Delissen Van Tongerlo underlined that such a toxic environment pushes some local and regional elected representatives to resign from office or to decide not to run for re-election. Political representatives of underrepresented groups and the opposition politicians are particularly vulnerable. Consequently, hate speech and fake news “damage the very fabric and processes of local and regional democracy and citizen engagement and participation is weakened”, underlined Ms Delissen. She mentioned the practical remedies against hate speech and fake news recommended in the Congress report, such as pursuing a comprehensive national strategy including relevant internet intermediaries which relies on legal remedies and preventative measures in light of relevant European standards and revising the efficiency of criminal law measures to counter threats and attacks against elected representatives, and highlighted further Congress recommendations on this topic, such as its report on independent candidates and the opposition.
The conference pointed in particular to the need for a “sound design and a well-founded assessment of possible negative side effects of technological innovations” and adequate transparency, data protection and oversight mechanisms.