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ERC wants to hold platforms accountable for misinformation and harmful effects on social media


Lisbon, 22 Apr 2023 (Lusa) – The member of the ERC Regulatory Board João Pedro Figueiredo defended today that social networks and service providers should be held responsible for misinformation and the effects of the circulation of false information on their platforms.

“In the elaboration of the laws of the different sectors (…) specific and clear realities could be foreseen for all the actors in this sector, and first of all in the service providers”, he said in his opening speech at the sixth edition of the Literacia, Media Congress and Citizenship, which runs until today in Lisbon.

“When we are talking about media literacy, we are not just talking about media, we are talking about information, and much of what goes on the internet and much of the misinformation and harmful effects associated with the circulation of information does not come from the media., they don’t come from the media, they come from social networks”, added the member of the Regulatory Entity for Social Communication.

João Pedro Figueiredo underlined that social networks “are not currently regulated by regulators”, but that this should happen.

“It is necessary to make service providers and platforms accountable,” he insisted.

However, he underlined that this will also require resources – human and financial – for its operation, difficulties that the regulator has faced in recent years.

The ERC member was speaking during the second of two days of the sixth edition of the Literacy, Media and Citizenship Congress, which takes place at the Escola Superior de Comunicação Social of the Polytechnic Institute of Lisbon, in Benfica, and whose motto was chosen by GILM – Grupo Informal sobre a Literacia for the Media is “Digital Transition and Public Policy”.

In the panel ‘Media Literacy: Challenges for Public Policies’, moderated by Pedro Braumann, there were also the Minister of Education, João Costa, the commissioner of the National Reading Plan, Regina Duarte, and the information director of Lusa, Luísa Meireles .

During the nearly two hours of debate, literacy and the new National Plan for Media Literacy, which the Minister of Culture, Pedro Adão e Silva said on Friday, will be created by the end of the first semester, were elements- key.

Regina Duarte pointed out that media literacy – and all other forms – could receive contributions from the National Reading Plan, since they are inseparable from reading skills.

Thus, he referred to the results of the PISA tests – International Student Assessment Program, benchmarking tests and national exams, which show that students in Portugal “have a lot of difficulty with more complex reading skills”.

“Our students are able to understand explicit information in the text, information that is easily located, which is on the surface of the text”, but “when it comes to making inferences, even direct ones, they are no longer able to and fail in reading skills that have to do with information evaluation, with comparison, with interpretation”, pointed out the PNL commissioner.

“If our students leave school without being able to assess information, without being able to interpret, without being able to analyse information, they won’t necessarily have media literacy skills, but they won’t have others either”, warned Regina Duarte.

The Minister of Education noted that “difficulties in extensive reading were detected and that students gave up at the first reading difficulty”.

“We transpose this to the relationship with the media and what does that mean? It means a great vulnerability to manipulation, because we cannot distinguish what is factual from what is opinionated”, he added, referring to the practice of “reading only the title and not reading extensively”.

João Costa added that the curriculum reform that began in 2016 and 2017 included “dimensions such as critical thinking, creative thinking, problem solving, autonomy and the responsibility associated with this autonomy” as essential skills to be developed throughout of schooling.

In this sense, he referred that media literacy is something that can be achieved with work developed in all curricular areas and went back to the covid-19 pandemic.

“If we think about the area of ​​science and what the rain of madness on social networks was at the time of the pandemic, it is enough to have knowledge of science to realize that a virus cannot be killed with bleach, that masks do not go beyond I don’t know what from 5G and things of that nature, just to name the craziest examples”, he said, adding that this involves scientific knowledge and the development of skills in the disciplines of Portuguese, history and philosophy.

The panel members considered that the lack of media literacy could be a contributing factor to a proliferation of misinformation, with Luísa Meireles adding another variable: the lack of local media.

“According to the Media Trust Lab, which is a project of the University of Beira Interior, 53.9%, that is, 54% of the 308 Portuguese municipalities are in a situation of total news desert. This means that they do not have any media of their own that produces news or [are] in a fragile situation”, he said.

“If we think about it, this is our reality, and it is a reality conducive to misinformation”, pointed out Lusa’s director of information.