Marietje Schaake, Member of the European Parliament
No. Despite several examples of hacking and foreign election meddling, the responses throughout Europe remain fragmented and weak. How many more wake-up calls do people need? There is hardly a more urgent matter than the protection of the democratic rights of EU citizens as they vote in the European Parliament elections in May and in several national elections.
To avoid manipulation through social media, we need transparency on who funds advertisements. This should include algorithmic accountability of the business models of social media companies, so that we know what the impact of conspiracy theories and hyper polarization are on our democracies. Additionally, microtargeting on the basis of gender, sex, religion, or political opinion should be scrutinized and restricted where legally possible.
Now that all elections are digitized, stress tests of technologies used, as well as funding cybersecurity measures, are key. Campaign staff need training in methods that can improve the resilience of democracy. Furthermore, political parties and candidates should explicitly commit to not use doxed or stolen data against opponents and to not use botnets without being transparent about it. They should disclose who funds them, even if laws do not yet require it. All this is part of the pledge for election integrity that I hope all candidates and parties will take. It is a shared and urgent responsibility for us all to do what we can to protect our democracy.