Evaluating the European Union's response to online misinformation and disinformation: how to address harm while maximising freedom of expression?
This project assesses the use of internet platform “content curation” tools as interferences with the right to expression when they are employed consistently with European Union (EU) regulations, to mitigate the impact of mis/disinformation. The project begins with a detailed discussion of the EU’s understanding of “mis/disinformation” and examines its form, manner of distribution and its authors. Mis/disinformation is fundamentally content that is verifiably false or misleading and not content that is true. With a definition in hand, the project provides a theory of the harm associated with mis/disinformation as it is understood by the EU. This theory draws out several key points about the nature of mis/disinformation as a “public harm” that is problematic when distributed en masse. The project assesses how this public harm is currently addressed in practice through current voluntary and emerging co-regulatory EU frameworks of mis/disinformation regulation. This involves a discussion of the nature of platform regulation and details how platforms use content curation tools to limit mis/disinformation distribution. It finds that these curation tools, assessed as potential interferences with the right to expression through the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and Court of Justice of the European Union, are interferences with freedom of expression. Finally, the project examines the novelty of the interference posed by these content curation tools. It suggests that these tools, while effective means of directly addressing the public harm of mis/disinformation, place a newfound focus on the ability to receive information, the values of pluralism, and importance of user transparency for understanding interference online.