No More Lies: The Rights-Based Approach to Fighting the COVID-19 “Infodemic” in the EU

Activity: Talk or presentation / Performance / SpeechesTalk or presentation - at conferenceAcademic


The COVID-19 pandemic provoked a surge in false and misleading content online. Being widely circulated online, it can seriously compromise personal integrity and endanger public safety. In pursuit of “flattening the infodemic curve”, numerous states around the globe committed to laying down restrictions countering disinformation.

The main goal of the presentation is to examine a multi-layered set of policies targeted at countering dissemination of the COVID-19 disinformation in the EU and reflect on possible ways to ensure their consistency with fundamental rights. The initiatives under examination adopted both at a national and EU-wide level include those and concern (1) additional transparency duties of online service providers (OSPs); (2) cooperation with fact-checking organisations; and (3) promotion of authoritative media sources. Drawing on the doctrine of positive obligations, the presentation then exposes fundamental rights risks posed by the current anti-disinformation strategies. Most policies aimed to curb disinformation lack foreseeability as they do not clearly define the conduct which can be subject to restrictions. Furthermore, some initiatives also do not meet the requirement of proportionality as they are not tailored to the degree of harm which a particular piece of information can incur. By endorsing the most reliable news outlets and demoting other sources, certain policies enforced in the EU might also impair freedom and pluralism of the media.

Using the rights-based approach as a conceptual framework, the presentation also introduces an alternative stance on tackling COVID-related disinformation in the EU. It calls upon the EU institutions to further elaborate on the common strategy against which explicitly delineates the range of intolerable practices and sets out sanctions which can be imposed accordingly. In conformity with the doctrine of the “least restrictive means”, Member States should encourage OSPs to differentiate between removal of content and its downranking to avoid any intrusive effect on freedom of expression. Finally, it is vital to guarantee enforceability of fundamental rights even in the event of the “infodemic”. Therefore, EU citizens should have access to an effective remedy in case their freedoms were subject to unjustified limitations.
Period21 Dec 2020
Event titleYoung Legal Researchers Conference
Event typeConference
Conference number1
LocationHasselt, BelgiumShow on map