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Why the EU vice president is not concerned about moon landing conspiracies on YouTube

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Why the EU vice president is not concerned about moon landing conspiracies on YouTube

When European Union Vice President Věra Jourová met with YouTube CEO Neal Mohan in California last week, they began discussing the long-standing conspiracy theory that the moon landings were fake. YouTube has faced calls from some users and advocacy groups to remove videos that question the historic missions. Like other videos denying accepted science, they were ripped from recommendations and had a Wikipedia link added to direct viewers to the debunking context.

But while Mohan was talking about those measures, Jourová made one thing clear: fighting lunar lunatics or flat-earthers should not be a priority. “If people want to believe it, let them believe it,” she said. As an official charged with protecting Europe’s democratic values, she believes it is more important to ensure that YouTube and other big platforms do not waste a single euro that could be spent on fact-checking or product changes to curb false or misleading content that threatens the integrity of the EU. security.

“We are focusing on narratives that have the potential to mislead voters, which could cause great harm to society,” Jourová tells WIRED in an interview. Unless conspiracy theories can lead to deaths, violence or pogroms, she says, don’t expect the EU to demand action against them. Content like recent fake news report Announce that Poland is mobilizing its troops in the middle of the election? That better not become true online.

In Jourová’s opinion, their conversation with mohan and similar discussions he had last week with the CEOs of Tik Tok, xand Goal show how the EU is helping businesses understand what is needed to counter disinformation, as now required by the bloc’s strict new Digital Services Law. Its requirements include that starting this year the largest internet platforms, including YouTube, must take measures to combat misinformation or risk fines of up to 6 percent of their global sales.

Civil liberties activists worry that the DSA could ultimately enable censorship by the bloc’s most authoritarian regimes. A good showing by far-right candidates in the EU parliamentary elections later this week could also lead to its uneven implementation.

YouTube spokesperson Nicole Bell says the company is aligned with Jourová in preventing egregious real-world harm and also removing content that misleads voters about how to vote or encourages interference in democratic processes. “Our teams will continue to work 24 hours a day,” Bell says of monitoring problematic videos about this week’s EU elections.

Jourová, who expects her five-year term to end at the end of this year, in part because her Czech political party, ANO, is no longer in power in the Czech Republic to reappoint her, maintains that the DSA does not intend to allow anything other than Appropriate. moderation of the most egregious content. She doesn’t expect Mohan or any other tech executive to go even an inch beyond what the law prescribes. “An excessive and excessive use of EU law would be a great failure and a great danger,” she says.

On the other hand, he acknowledges that if companies are not seen as taking steps to mitigate misinformation, then some influential politicians have threatened to seek stricter rules that could border on outright censorship. “I hate this idea,” he says. “We don’t want this to happen.”

But since the DSA offers more guidelines than clear lines, how can platforms know when to act? Jourova’s “democracy tour” in Silicon Valley, as she calls it, is part of facilitating a policy dialogue. And she hopes that social media researchers, experts and the press will help uncover the blurred lines between free expression and destructive misinformation. She jokes that she doesn’t want to be seen as the “European Minister of Truth,” however tempting that title may be. Letting politicians alone define what is acceptable online “would pave the way to hell,” she says.

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