31.03.2022 9:32 | Conversation
The European Union is working on setting up a sort of “ministry of truth” to seek out unsatisfactory opinions and “pathological phenomena”. At least these are the words of Matěj Gregor, who heads the Odchod.eu association. “The European Union has long cringed at the opinions of opponents and felt that if it introduced the first phase of censorship at a time when Ukraine was in the throes of war, it would not matter” , said Gregor, who, like his Free colleagues, rejected any attempt to restrict freedom of expression.
In recent days, the European Parliament has backed the European Commission’s call to focus more on tackling so-called disinformation, in particular by Russia and China. What do you think?
It is the use of the situation to establish control over freedom of expression. The European Union has long cringed at the views of opponents and felt that if it introduced the first phase of censorship at a time when Ukraine was in the throes of war, so would it. And unfortunately, I’m afraid a lot of people don’t really care. It is an almost identical censorship that the European Union likes to criticize in Russia and China. The EU problem is also growing rapidly in the Czech Republic. When I found out that dozens of websites had been taken down at the government’s suggestion, my heart stopped for a moment.
Are you surprised that around 80% of MEPs voted in favor of this resolution? Is the subject of so-called disinformation really such a crucial and at the same time unifying subject for Brussels politicians?
He’s not a deputy, like a deputy. The European Parliament is too noble a name for my taste for a room full of well-paid civil servants who follow the instructions of their factions, governments and parties. There is no room for discussion, there is no room for critical thinking. After all, an MEP cannot even propose a law. What the European Commission wants to approve will always approve it in its current composition.
Following the recommendations of MEPs, a brand new disinformation office should also be set up within the European Union. Can you imagine how such a new organization would work? Do you think we can expect this office to create something like a list of inappropriate opinions?
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Exactly. The European Union is trying to set up a “ministry of truth” to seek out unsatisfactory viewpoints and “pathological phenomena” and then to advise and advise the European Union on how to deal with them. Social media owners will certainly try to coordinate common practices. Guilders such as Demagogue, Czech Elves, and Manipulators are likely to receive bolder grants. But the worst will come at a time when legislation is actively changing. But I still believe that our country values its freedoms and that people will not allow anything like that. It touches me and I will fight for freedom of expression until the last breath.
On the other hand, we probably all agree that information warfare and working with deliberate disinformation has become a major “fad” of recent years, and that problems on the scale of society could arise if completely ignored. So how should the government or the EU combat these dangers?
If an information war is waged by a great power, there is room for debate on how to deal with it. Right now, however, the summons is being questioned by ordinary people writing something on Facebook. It’s dangerous. On the other side of the barricade, the one advocating for the EU, disinformation is spreading to exactly the same extent and intensity as from the Eurosceptics. You can’t talk about it, literally. When you post a message that alerts you to something like this, you get a BAN and a deletion. The very definition of disinformation is very dangerous. How to determine it? Which sources to mark as credible? We face issues that we don’t know well enough and we try to fight them in very dangerous ways that threaten the very essence of our freedom. If the government wants to tackle the problem, it should educate people about each other in an environment of misinformation. Show them that even mainstream media is spreading fake news. A free society which, thanks to its knowledge, is not subject to government, media or foreign propaganda is the best weapon in the fight against disinformation.
Many sides argue that discussions of disinformation lead to a gradual restriction of free speech, which citizens are also getting used to. Do you see it the same way?
I see. And paradoxically, the media play a big role in it. The media has had enormous power since the start of the pandemic. People are reading the news and watching the stories far more than ever before. Likewise, the media is spitting out news at a much faster rate than ever before. However, this has a negative effect on their quality in particular. There was a bubble that there were “a few disinformants” who helped Russia and that the government preferred to have them erased. And it’s for our good. And that was enough for people. But no one said that many censored websites don’t support Russia and their content isn’t related to the war in Ukraine. No one will tell people there weren’t 8, 12 or 19. There have been more than twenty confirmed cases. The media smog has taught people to think that anything not in the mainstream media is fake. And so people were correcting what they could and couldn’t share and someone was sorting out the information so they didn’t become victims of propaganda. It’s completely absurd and it sounds Orwellian.
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Do you think it is possible to talk about the return of censorship?
It’s definitely in place, and I’m talking about the return of censorship. We are coming to a time when people are taking down websites at the behest of the government, so small free media outlets are being liquidated. At the same time, we are in a situation where it is normal for someone to fire you for your opinion and your contribution. When I hear and see people summoned to questioning for “spreading disinformation on social media”, a shiver runs down my spine. Some people have not been invited to public media for a long time and the European Union is setting up an office to spy on people’s profiles. Until recently we had a kind of salami method here. Today, excessive censorship is spreading at the speed of Bugatti and, unfortunately, to the applause of the majority.
However, many tools to restrict freedom of expression today are held not only by social network operators, but also, it turned out, by associations such as CZ.NIC, etc. Is there any danger that these private entities will be abused or used in government efforts to reduce “inappropriate” views?
The fact that the government pressures private entities to support censorship is completely outrageous and constitutes a totalitarian element. The second thing is the very approach of specific associations. Private entities will only be abused if they want to be abused. CZ.NIC behaved in a completely inappropriate and cowardly manner. In practice, he confirmed to the people that the recommendation of the government was equivalent to a government order. I hope other companies will act within the law and not respond to government pressure.
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author: Karel Vyborny