Sant warns European values struggling to cope with ethical and social tensions

We must update our values to respond to hate speech, populism and fake news, Alfred Sant tells European Parliament

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Jurgen Balzan
7 April 2017, 10:14am
Alfred Sant asked 'to what extent should an individual’s right to privacy prevail over surveillance measures'
Alfred Sant asked 'to what extent should an individual’s right to privacy prevail over surveillance measures'
Maltese MEP Alfred Sant warned that the liberal value system prevailing in Western Europe since the end of World War II is struggling to cope with the ethical and social tensions.

Addressing the European Parliament, the former Prime Minister said that the values which “created a tolerant, open society that allows diversity, freedom of thought and speech, and respect for human rights” need to be updated.

“If not in crisis, this value system is straining to cope with the ethical and social tensions generated among others by: technological innovation especially in the communications field; intercultural disparities within societies; immigration; terrorism; and rising social inequalities,” he said.  

Sant told the European Parliament that in responding to tensions created by hate speech, populism and fake news on social media, “we need to update the expression of our values to make them coherent with the times, while enhancing the tolerant and liberal profile of Europe.”

Sant was speaking as the European Parliament was debating "Hate speech, populism, and fake news on social media – towards an EU response".

Noting that populism and extremism are present in Europe in an overall tense atmosphere of hate and anger, Sant said “when does the right to offend, that we allow, become equivalent to hate speech? Under what conditions does the full observance of traditional religious customs contradict liberal practices? What justification can be advanced for rigid surveillance of internet traffic, including its “censorship”, to combat say, 'fake news'? To what extent should an individual’s right to privacy prevail over surveillance measures intended to cover concerns related to internet and other criminal activity, such as tax fraud and hate speech? We do not have clear cut, satisfactory replies to such questions.”

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Jurgen Balzan joined MaltaToday in 2011, specialising in politics, foreig...