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The impact of digital platforms and social media on freedom of expression and pluralism – Legal system against disinformation

2021.09.01. @ 10:00 - 2021.09.03. @ 16:30

Lecturer: Dr hab. Marcin Wielec
Faculty of Law and Administration Cardinal University S. Wyszyński in Warsaw
Institute of Justice in Warsaw

I. Dr. hab. Marcin Wielec (WPiA UKSW / IWS), as a representative of the Central European Professors’ Network, in which he is the head of the research group devoted to the issue of “The impact of digital platforms and social media on freedom of expression and pluralism”, took part in the prestigious international forum in Krynica Zdrój – Cybersec CEE Regions & Cities 2021. It is worth emphasizing that in a number of scientific events in Poland, this forum is an annual, exceptionally prestigious international meeting of scientists and practitioners dealing with research on modern technologies, law and economy. This year, the CYBERSEC CEE Regions & Cities 2021 forum was held under the slogan “Towards a digital world based on values”. Previous editions of CYBERSEC were held, among others, in Krakow, Katowice, Warsaw, Brussels, Washington etc. Every year, they gathered crowds of European policymakers, representatives of transatlantic structures, security specialists and technology experts, lawyers and economists. Each time the forum is designed to strengthen interregional relations in Central and Eastern Europe. During this conference, countless political, scientific, economic and economic relations are established, which then translate into the modernization of legal systems, management of new technologies, partnership and cybersecurity policy in the region of Central and Eastern Europe. Among the guests at the forum this year was the President of the Republic of Poland – Andrzej Duda.

II. As fake news have recently become a significant element of communication, one of the expert discussion panels during this forum was a panel devoted to legal systems against disinformation. This panel was personally attended by dr hab. Marcin Wielec representing the Central European Professors’ Network, within which he leads a research group conducting analyses on “The impact of digital platforms and social media on freedom of expression and pluralism”. During this panel, dr hab. Marcin Wielec presented reports of criminal law in relation to the phenomenon of fake news. He defined the importance of this specific right to the possible need for legal regulation of fake news and presented fake news classifications according to the type of legal liability. All conclusions presented by dr hab. Marcin Wielec regarding fake news are the result of the research conducted within the Central European Professors’ Network in a research group devoted to issues related to “The impact of digital platforms and social media on freedom of expression and pluralism”.

III. In detail in this panel, dr hab. Marcin Wielec emphasized that criminal law should deal with the most important fake-news, i.e. disinformation that threatens the security of the state. Rather, other branches of law, such as administrative law or civil law, should deal with minor disinformation. He also added that in order to answer the question of whether it is possible to punish fake news, it is necessary to balance the conflict involving the constitutional value of freedom of expression and the construction of a fake news crime. Including disinformation in the structure of criminal law should begin with establishing a catalog of behaviors that make up this type of crime. We have a problem with the definition of fake news, and it will certainly also be difficult to prove this type of possible crime in a criminal trial, for which the current criminal law system in Poland is not ready yet. Existing legal measures make it possible to combat some of the threats in the area of disinformation, but their effectiveness should be achieved be re-analyzed and adapted to the requirements of the present day. We cannot stay with the legal system in the analogue era. The key problem is that the Polish civil, administrative and criminal law in the field of combating fake news is not adapted to contemporary digital means of communication and related social changes.

IV. It is worth emphasizing that this year the forum was attended by about 600 people directly and 1500 people online.

 

Report from the CYBERSEC CEE Regions & Cities 2021 conference

 

On 1-3 September 2021, the prestigious CYBERSEC CEE Regions & Cities 2021 Forum took place in Krynica Zdrój. As part of the 3-day conference, 25 panels and lectures were held, 4 thematic paths were chosen and 60 world experiments were carried out. The conference is leading in Europe, it is a forum for discussing new technologies and ways of managing them, establishing partnerships, and shaping cybersecurity policy. The theme of the event in 2021 was the slogan Towards a Values-Based Digital World. 

At this year’s conference, topics such as intelligent connectivity projects under the Three Seas Initiative, capacity building in the field of cybersecurity, development of smart cities, creating European data spaces, changes in the cybersecurity threat landscape, such as the spread of malware, the safe development of 5G or fake news case.

As part of the “Krynica goes digital” thematic track, we had the opportunity to listen to the thinkings of 5 Polish panelists on the subject of identification and preparation for the challenges of digitization. The path was conducted entirely in Polish, the discussion was attended by Dr. Marcin Wielec, Dr. Paweł Sobczyk, Dr. Bartosz Majchrzak, Dr. Joanna Taczkowska-Olszewska and Nina Maciejczyk-Krysiak. It was a field for discussing topics that are not discussed in Poland. The panel was about how to use modern technologies in the most effective and efficient way and how to guarantee their safety.

One of the debaters of the panel “Legal system against disinformation” was Dr. Marcin Wielec, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Law and Administration of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, head of the Department of Criminal Procedure at the Faculty of Law and Administration of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, and a member of the Central European Professors’ Network under the coordination of the Ferenc Mádl Institute of Comparative Law. 

In a response to a question asked whether it is possible to punish fake news in a democratic state and whether criminal law is applicable to regulating the issue of information and disinformation, the speaker replied that criminal law should deal with the most important fake news, i.e. disinformation that threatens the security of the state. Criminal and civil law can regulate everything, even the most absurd issues, but it is necessary to balance the conflict between the constitutional value of freedom of expression and the construction of a fake news crime. Disinformation of minor importance should be dealt with in other branches of law, such as administrative law. 

Professor Wielec explained that criminal law consists of several coherent elements and is characterized by specific features. Criminal law is very repressive, compulsory, arbitrary, and deals with conflicts of values, meanwhile, the issue of fake news fits into the outline of the fight for values. A conflict, in this case, would arise between the highest-quality guarantees, i.e. constitutional guarantees, and the limitation of these guarantees by creating the fake news crime. The speaker, analyzing the structure of criminal law, emphasized that it is co-created by substantive law and formal law. The criminal trial is the tool that allows us to put the substantive criminal law into practice.

Including disinformation in the structure of criminal law should begin with establishing a catalog of behaviors that make up this type of crime. We have a problem with the definition of fake news, and it will also be difficult to prove this type of crime in a criminal trial.

The professor indicated that as part of the work carried out in the project of Central European Professors’ Network has been developed a 4-element fake news scale. In the case of fake news of the first degree, a criminal sanction can be applied, while maintaining due precision. The second level is fake news that threatens honor and personal civil rights (criminal sanctions do not exist in this field). Third-degree fake news is related to professional disinformation, but this is regulated by disciplinary law. On the other hand, the fourth degree of fake news is an unsuccessful satire, in which the interference of the organs is not necessary at all. Thus, the professor summed up the argument, arguing that the consequences of fake news should be left in the area of ​​law other than criminal law.

The event had truly wide appeal. According to the official media report, the information about CYBERSEC reached 18 million people. A platform for open discussion was successfully created in Krynica, the aim of which was to develop strategic visions and form a coalition for the value-based transformation of cybersecurity challenges. This year’s edition attracted an even greater number of decision-makers, experts, and industry leaders, bringing together over 200 experts from Poland and the international scientific arena.

The reach of the conference definitely exceeded the organizers’ estimates. According to Cybersec Forum, during the summer promotion period, ie in the period August-September, a total of about 2,764 mentions of the conference were published. There were 1658 mentions on the Internet, 178 in the press, 243 on the radio, and 152 on TV. The media equivalent is worth a total of about PLN 4-4.5 million. As mentioned, the conference reached 18 million people, and the estimated total reach of the message was about 17 million.

The event was organised as part of Central European Professors’ Network 2021 and coordinated by the Ferenc Mádl Institute of Comparative Law.

Details

Start:
2021.09.01. @ 10:00
End:
2021.09.03. @ 16:30

Venue

Krynica-Zdrój (Poland)