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MEP Boni: we don't need censorship but a better understanding of the fake news phenomenon

On 7 March Polish MEP Michał Boni organised a public debate in European Parliament entitled "How to deal with fake news", together with The Guardian Media Group.

As fake news and post-truth are a current area of concern for science engagement professionals, we reproduce his speech here - with his permission.

"First of all,

I warmly welcome all of you - as a host of today's meeting co-organised with

"The Guardian" and the Polish "Gazeta Wyborcza".

I want to thank especially, Dan Roberts, for taking on the moderation of this debate.


what is the context of this discussion - what is the significance of the fake news phenomenon, now ?

Is it - the problem of the functioning of some algorithms in some platforms and communication channels ?

Or is it - the neutrality of the platform administrators in the relation to the content and the difficulties to assess: what is the truth, what is fake, what is the hate speech, what is the emotionally expressed - opinion ?

Is it - the weaknesses of the mechanism of "the notice and take down" ?

Is it - the lack of possibilities to establish fact-checking institutions, groups, also - automated algorithms ?

Or is it - the lack of the quality of the journalism, especially in the processes of the convergence of the traditional model of media and the digital media expansion ?

And finally - is it - the problem of: how to add something to the rules and regulations important and effective for counteracting the fake news dissemination, or - is it - the problem of : how to change completely the Internet governance architecture ?

It is crucial to understand the fake news phenomenon, because fake news became the efficient tool for the political fights and battles. Those battles exist at the age of the post-truth politics.


some years ago - the politics was based on the evidence and was aimed at solving the problems. The analytical skills were important, the objectives were the key - for public debates, long term strategies, the empowerment and involvement of all stakeholders. The task was: how to sell the solutions - in the positive sense, and how to convince the society to start the reforms, to change the world.

In recent years - it became clear that politics was more and more a marketing game, establishing the new model of competition at the political stage. The new principle was - to adjust decision making policies to the results of the polls. It turned out, that politicians decided to limit their objectives to the people's expectations. It turned out, that very often those expectations and needs were created by the tabloids and the new style of the media communication. The task was: how to sell the customised products to achieve future, practical objective: to win the elections.

And what is going on - now ?

Now - we live in times when the politics is based mainly on emotions. There is no need to have the set of solutions. There is no need to have the set of real expectations. There is a need to create, to galvanise strong emotions. It is the strong background for the populism.

It starts with the threats, fears - how useful the fake news are ! It starts with emotions - not with facts and assessment of the real situation. How easy it is - to create those emotions and disseminate them all over the society very fast. How easy it is - to initiate the flame and after that - to burn the people's minds. The task is: how to establish the tribal, quasi-religious community, strong supporter for the authoritarian model of governance and keep the power through the long time. The Internet is the best vehicle for this.


paradoxically, the Internet - the most democratic device in the history from the Gutenberg invention - as it can be, this Internet - is now the destroyable power, destroyable for democracy!

I want to emphasise : democracy is - a very sophisticated and valuable ecosystem: for the citizenship, for the checks and balances among powers and institutions, for the full respect of all kinds of the minorities, for the consensual way to solve problems. The fake news phenomenon undermines democracy and supports populism and polarisation. The extreme polarisation of the society - as a political tool of the populism - is creating the permanent tensions and political camps, bubbles in which people with closed minds - live as if on the isolated islands.

And finally,

how we can react, how we have to react ?

If we want to protect the liberal democracy, if we want to save the liberal democracy - we need to act together. But we do not need the censorship tools. We should be cautious with starting the debate on the strong regulations - as a one size fits all solution.

What we need - is to promote: the better understanding of the problem of the current model of the politics and the fake news phenomenon, and - the stronger cooperation of all partners.

This is the rationale of today's meeting and discussion."


  • michal boni
  • european parliament
  • post-truth
  • fake news