Ursula von der Leyen’s calls for global collaboration to tackle disinformation | World Economic Forum 2024

The president of the European Commission called for a collective effort to rebuild trust, drive global collaboration, and address the challenges of misinformation, disinformation, and polarization to create a stable and prosperous future.

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President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen addressed the World Economic Forum at Davos, highlighting the increasing concern of misinformation and disinformation as the top global risk for the next two years. She emphasised that these challenges, along with societal polarisation, hinder our ability to address major global issues such as climate change, geopolitical shifts, and technological advancements.

Von der Leyen stressed the need for immediate and structural responses on a global scale, asserting that Europe can and must take the lead in shaping this response. She called for collaboration between governments, businesses, and democracies, emphasising the importance of creating new alliances to address challenges that transcend borders.

‘The boundary between online and offline is getting thinner and thinner and the values we cherish offline should also be protected online and this is even more important in this new era of generative AI.’

The President acknowledged that while governments play a significant role, businesses possess the innovation, technology, and talent required to combat threats like climate change and industrial-scale disinformation. Europe, with its aligned interests between democracies and businesses, is uniquely positioned to demonstrate effective collaboration.

As 2024 marks the largest electoral year in history, von der Leyen highlighted the importance of democracies, where people’s choices influence economic outcomes. She acknowledged the risks associated with freedom, particularly the exploitation of openness through disinformation and misinformation campaigns.

Regarding disinformation, von der Leyen referred to the Digital Services Act, which defines the responsibility of large internet platforms in promoting and propagating content. She emphasised the need to protect values both online and offline, particularly in the era of generative AI. The Global Risk Report identifies AI as one of the top potential risks for the next decade, but von der Leyen sees it as a significant opportunity if used responsibly.

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Expressing optimism about AI’s potential, she mentioned its revolutionary impact on healthcare and its ability to boost productivity. Von der Leyen called for Europe to lead in responsible AI adoption, leveraging its competitive edge in talent and industrial data. She emphasised providing start-ups and SMEs with access to supercomputers for AI development and making vast amounts of data available in all EU languages.