The European Union (EU) Tuesday called upon the United States to join the alliance in creating a common rule book to rein in the power of internet companies like Facebook and Twitter to combat the spread of fake news as well as protect data.
In a wide-ranging virtual speech to the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen noted how much the world has changed by referencing last year’s EU concerns over the possibility of U.S. tariffs on European automobiles.
“Today, a year later, we are worrying about whether democracy itself might have been permanently damaged in the last four years,” said Von der Leyen. He also referenced the storming of the U.S. Capitol, calling it “beyond my imagination” and said it served as a reminder of the “dangers that social media poses to our democracy.”
The European Commission president called on U.S. President Joe Biden to join the 27-nation bloc’s efforts to better regulate tech platforms. She added there needs to be a “framework” for “far-reaching decisions” such as Twitter’s move to cut off former U.S. President Donald Trump’s account.
She said it needs to be clearly laid out how internet companies make decisions about disseminating, promoting or removing content.
“No matter how tempting it may have been for Twitter to switch off President Trump’s account, such serious interference with freedom of expression should not be based on company rules alone,” said Von der Leyen. “There needs to be a framework of laws for such far-reaching decision.”
During Tuesday’s speech, Von der Leyen also urged pharmaceutical companies to “honor their obligations” on the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, saying the EU had invested billions in their development “for the common good.”
The bloc on Monday criticized pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, accusing it of failing to guarantee the delivery of coronavirus vaccines without a valid explanation.
The EU also expressed displeasure over vaccine delivery delays from Pfizer-BioNTech last week.