What can stop propaganda on the Internet?

The Russian attempts to influence the US election campaign via social media were apparently on a larger scale than previously assumed. Facebook alone has admitted that 126 million US users received comments and other content published by Russian sources between 2015 and 2017. Commentators disagree over who should be called to account.

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Die Welt (DE) /

Internet users also responsible

Users must also stand up to political propaganda, Die Welt believes:

“The Internet places part of the responsibility on its users. Whether it's flight bookings, banking or publications on networks. This is one of its principles. We, as users of social networks, must assume and fulfil this responsibility. We must critically examine claims, check sources and above all not simply believe everything that appears on our timeline. If we don't then we're an easy target for all kinds of propaganda.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Only laws can regulate social media

The technology giants won't stop the propaganda of their own volition, the Tages-Anzeiger fears:

“It's unlikely that the digital companies will start self-regulating on their own. Facebook is a listed company. As such it needs to expand its business model. It would pay dearly for any attempts to undermine the mechanisms for users to vent their anger. Would a car company voluntarily reduce the power of its engines? A sense of responsibility is a virtue. But on the stock markets it has no value. No, we can't expect any answers from the digital industry. Democratic society must find its own answers - and act on them. Even if the consequence is un-American: legal regulations.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

End special treatment for big tech firms

The US Congress must use the investigation into Russian electoral propaganda on Facebook, Twitter and Google to end special treatment for Internet companies, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung urges:

“The fact that the true extent of Russian influence is still unknown is a result of either these companies' inability to control their own platforms or of a lack of desire for transparency. Both are sufficient reason to subject the big tech companies to the same laws that already hold for their competitors. Traditional media companies, for example, must thoroughly document all political advertising they publish. If they don't, they're held to account. For too long the companies of Silicon Valley have enjoyed special treatment in Washington.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Internet giants only care about money

Facebook, Google and the like aren't taking their duty to help protect democracy seriously, the Irish Examiner criticises:

“This week's events in Washington raise questions relevant to the security of democracy. ... Today, Twitter, Facebook and Google will try to explain how and why they allowed foreign agencies to target American voters. In the plainest terms, commercial interests topped any fleeting sense of national responsibility in a way that makes our bankers look like paragons of virtue. This raises a fundamental question of our age - are democracies capable of withstanding the machinations of the data plutocrats?”