Internet users, journalists and online media: standards needed

The PACE Culture Committee has called on European parliaments to discuss online media and journalism and to adopt general standards for the protection of fundamental freedoms and rights of Internet users, journalists and online media. In the committee’s view, the shift in resources from media outlets to Internet service providers and social media is weakening professional media and bringing about “exponential growth in Internet media which do not adhere to professional standards of journalism”.

In unanimously adopting a draft resolution based on the report by Adele Gambaro (Italy, ALDE), the committee recommended that member states initiate discussions about norms and mechanisms required for “preventing the risk of information distortion and manipulation of public opinion”. Public service broadcasters should make full use of the technical possibilities offered by online media, while ensuring that “their Internet presence complies with the same high editorial standards as offline”.

The members urged the European Federation of Journalists and the Association of European Journalists to call on their members to ensure that professional journalistic media uphold their editorial standards in their Internet presence, including own media content, advertising, third-party content as well as user-generated content such as user feedback or comments. “All third-party content posted on the Internet presence of professional media falls under the editorial responsibility of these media,” the committee said.

The members also recommended that the European Internet Services Providers Association call on its members that provide social media to develop ethical quality standards regarding their own transparency and the due diligence of their media services. They should also voluntarily correct or remove false content. Internet service providers “are legally obliged to co-operate in combating illegal content,” they said.

The draft resolution is due to be debated in Strasbourg during the Assembly’s forthcoming plenary session (23-27 January 2017).